The capital's tourism expansion programme will continue in spite of the economic slowdown.
1,600 new hotel rooms for Abu Dhabi
An Abu Dhabi hotels management company is to open 1,655 rooms in the capital in the next two years at a cost of Dh600 million (US$163.3m), officials said yesterday. Vision Hotels Management, which opened luxury hotel apartments in Abu Dhabi's Tourist Club area three years ago, will press ahead with its expansion goals despite the economic slowdown. "Abu Dhabi is quite new to the tourism industry and despite the critical and tough economic times globally, we will continue towards the goal," said Nadir al Hamadi, the chairman of Vision Group. Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon, the chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), said in November the emirate planned to offer more than 26,000 hotel rooms by the end of 2012. The expansion is part of the authority's five-year plan to attract 2.7 million guests to the capital's cultural offerings, such as the planned branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums. The severe shortage of hotel rooms in the capital has allowed operators to charge premium rates in recent years. Vision Hotel Apartments Deluxe, which caters to business executives, had a 98 per cent occupancy rate last year. Business travellers account for 80 per cent of hotel occupancies in Abu Dhabi. However, whether new developments would be as profitable would depend on supply, said Jalil Mekouar, the executive vice president in the Middle East and North Africa of Jones Lang LaSalle. The global credit crisis, which has raised the cost of financing, had caused some developers in Abu Dhabi to be hesitant, Mr Mekouar said. "Right now, a number of developers are being cautious and may be reviewing their plans; it's a matter of assessing if the demand will be there and if it's sustainable." Vision Group executives, however, are confident about the market's demand and their ability to have the capital for the projects. Youssef Farran, the managing director of Vision Group, said Abu Dhabi's relative economic health compared with the rest of the world would help attract more foreign investment into the city, allowing for ambitious projects to continue here. The company would cope with the global credit crisis by relying mostly on investing its profits. "Our need for financing, if needed, would be very minimal," said Mr Farran. Vision's planned developments consist of three properties on Muroor Road, totalling 756 luxury suites to open early next year; 240 suites at Al Meena Road also to open next year; 246 suites on the Corniche; and two developments with 413 suites on Al Reem Island. Vision, a member of the Abu Dhabi holding company Royal Group, will also open a five-star hotel in Bogota, the capital of Colombia. Mr Farran said Bogota offered attractive land prices and the country's tourism industry was on the rise. Colombia is notorious for its high rate of crime, which in recent years the government appears to have succeeded in controlling. firstname.lastname@example.org