x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Sir Bani Yas hotel opens its doors to the public

The formerly invitation-only resort is targeting adventure seekers and safari tourists as clientele.

Sir Bani Yas has been a wildlife preserve and private retreat for nearly 40 years.
Sir Bani Yas has been a wildlife preserve and private retreat for nearly 40 years.

The formerly invitation-only royal Sir Bani Yas Island off the coast of Abu Dhabi will open its boutique hotel to the public on Wednesday, the hotel's management said. The 64-room luxury Desert Islands Resort and Spa hotel is located on the northern tip of Sir Bani Yas, which once was the private wildlife reserve of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan, the founder of the nation, and has remained a private royal retreat for nearly 40 years.

"So far we have had a very positive response from the public and we are fully booked during the Eid [al Fitr] holiday," said Andre Erasmus, the general manager of Desert Islands Resort and Spa. "The hotel will provide guests with transport to the island by speed boat, which is inclusive of the room rate at around Dh1,900 [US$517] per night," said Mr Erasmus. Minor Hotels Resorts and Spas, which operates the Anantara Spa at the Emirates Palace, will manage the hotel, while the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) is in charge of the island.

According to Michael Sagild, the chief operating officer of Minor Hotels Resorts and Spas, TDIC has invested about US$1.2 billion (Dh4.4bn) over a 10-year period to develop the island. "There was always a reluctance from the Government's side on whether to open Sir Bani Yas to the public or not - that's why developing the hotel took place over 10 years," he had earlier said. Guests of the exclusive resort will be able to enjoy a number of services that do not exist anywhere else in the Emirate. "We have a very advanced spa where we hired 10 Thai therapists to give guests a wide range of body treatments, including a massage on the beach," Mr Erasmus said.

The island is home to more than 160 species of wild animals, including the native Arabian oryx, and the hotel is targeting adventure seekers and desert safari tourists as its core clientele. "The hotel blends well with its natural surroundings and has the look and feel of a sheikh's home, with ostrich eggs used as decoration and earthy colours chosen for the furniture," said Mr Sagild. As part of the dining experience, guests will have the chance to have their meals served on the island's mountain peaks. "All the food will be very authentic Arabic dishes so the guests could really get a flavour of true Arabic hospitality," Mr Erasmus said.

Operating a hotel on an island, however, is easier said than done. "Logistically, moving supplies to the island is very challenging," he said. To avoid further transportation problems, the hotel's 150 staff members are based on the island. TDIC said there would be two ferries and a number of speed boats to ease any logistical issues. Seven other islands surround Sir Bani Yas, including Dalma Island and the Discovery Islands and a larger tourism project is under way to develop them. Once the first phase of the project is completed, TDIC expects to attract 250,000 tourists a year. This would generate Dh1.2bn in revenues and create about 6,500 jobs, the TDIC said.

abakr@thenational.ae