The Life: Christophe Schnyder, the general manager of Sofitel The Palm, talks about the competition on the strip and how his hotel plans to stand out.
Polynesian theme sprouts on Dubai's Palm Jumeirah
This will be Sofitel's flagship property in the Middle East, Africa and Indian Ocean region. What makes Palm Jumeirah, which is becoming increasingly crowded, so attractive?
There will be fierce competition in a few years but we welcome any competition. Palm Jumeirah is a popular destination worldwide for international and domestic travellers. The number of rooms in Dubai may be increasing but the number of tourists to Dubai is increasing as well. Last year's occupancy statistics of four and five-star hotels averaged 81 per cent. Already there is a sharp increase in average rate and occupancy in Q1 2013 compared to Q1 2012. With the general vision of Dubai 2020, there are several projects coming up.
How will you stand out?
Ours will be a true resort based on Polynesian culture. We will have 361 rooms and 182 serviced apartments over 100,000 square metres.
Why a Polynesian theme?
The initial plans started in 2007, and designer and botanist Patrick Blanc wanted to come up with something different. The UAE has hotels with Arabic themes but we wanted something that fits in with the palm island concept and Polynesia seemed perfect. As you enter the hotel you will get the island feel. We have 950 sq metres of vertical planting throughout the resort in public areas but also in certain suites. There are 150 species of plants. They have different origins and are imported from Europe and Asia.
Can the tourism momentum be sustained after Dubai 2020 if the emirate wins the expo bid?
Yes, as the growth figures show. After the 2008 slowdown, every hotel regained market share. New destinations that the Emirates is targeting and opening up also helps. Australia is a new market that is showing steady growth. Our top three markets are Europe and the United Kingdom, all Gulf countries, and Commonwealth of Independent States.
What are your target room rates and occupancy rates at Sofitel The Palm, Dubai?
We are running a special offer for international travellers at Dh800 until September. From October when the high season starts, we will see higher rates that will differ according to the market. We will not focus on occupancy rates for the first six months.
How many Sofitel hotels are there in the UAE?
We are the third Sofitel in the UAE. We have a Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach, and another on Abu Dhabi Corniche. There will be a fourth one in Downtown Dubai near Burj Khalifa in early 2014.
How many people will your hotel employ?
We are looking at 650 permanent employees and in the high season the total number of employees will be around 800.