x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Sofitel plans to open three more hotels in UAE

The French luxury hotel chain Sofitel plans to open two hotels in Dubai and another in the capital in the next three years.

A view of Sofitel The Palm in Dubai. The French hotelier plans to open three more hotels in the country over the next three years. Silvia Razgova / The National
A view of Sofitel The Palm in Dubai. The French hotelier plans to open three more hotels in the country over the next three years. Silvia Razgova / The National

The French luxury hotel chain Sofitel plans to open two hotels in Dubai and another in the capital in the next three years.

"Dubai has changed significantly; whereas earlier summer was considered low season now almost every hotel is reporting 85 per cent occupancy rates in summer," said Robert Gaymer-Jones, the chief executive of Sofitel Worldwide. "This has increased room rates throughout Dubai."

The average daily room rate in the UAE was around Dh537 last month, according to STR Global.

At a rough estimate of 600 employees per hotel, the three Sofitel openings could mean 1,800 new jobs for the Emirates.

A Sofitel Dubai Downtown is to open in March with 350 rooms and will employ around 400 people.

Sofitel The Palm already has 650 permanent employees and in the high season the figure is expected to touch around 800.

"I am not concerned about tourism holding up for Dubai, but more concerned about the political situation in the region," Mr Gaymer-Jones said.

With Dubai a strong contender for Expo 2020, international hotel chains are upbeat about the market. Sofitel, owned by Accor, wants to bring its luxury brand Sofitel SO to Dubai.

Associated with fashion designers such as Christian Lacroix and Kenzo Takada, there are two Sofitel SO hotels, in Mauritius and Bangkok, with a third to open in Singapore at the end of this year.

"I would love to bring a Sofitel SO in Dubai, in the next three or four years," Mr Gaymer-Jones said, besides one more Sofitel in Abu Dhabi.

Hilton Worldwide, meanwhile, plans to open three DoubleTree by Hilton properties in the Emirates in the next two years, including two in Dubai and DoubleTree by Hilton Marjan Island. The Hilton Capital Grand Abu Dhabi will open today, adding 281 rooms to the company's more than 3,000 rooms in the UAE.

Sofitel had 206 properties in its portfolio in 2006 but has since reduced this to 121.

Accor, Sofitel's parent company, does not release financial data for its specific brands but in its first half yearly results Accor reported an operating profit before tax and non-recurring items down by 14.7 per cent over same period last year to €148 million (Dh718.3m). Net profits for Accor were €34m, up from a net loss of €532m in first-half last year.

Saudi Arabia, too, is an increasingly popular destination for international hotel chains as the number of pilgrims is expected to rise amid expansion of the kingdom's religious sites.

Mr Gaymer-Jones was in Dubai to sign an agreement for a new Sofitel in Jeddah, which is expected to be online next year. It is to be owned by Al Tamiuz Al Fareed Hotels and Resorts, the hospitality unit of a Saudi group owned by the Al Harithiya family.

Sofitel has two hotels in the pipeline in the kingdom besides the Jeddah property.

Hilton Worldwide has 21 hotels and more than 8,000 rooms in the pipeline in Saudi Arabia.

 

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