x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Abu Dhabi's snaked-shape Rocco hotel to open in June

The Dh600 million Rocco Forte hotel in Abu Dhabi is finally expected to open in June, having been delayed by about a year, amid slowing development of some other hotels in the capital.

An artist's impression of the Rocco Forte hotel in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Rocco Forte
An artist's impression of the Rocco Forte hotel in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Rocco Forte

The Dh600 million (US$163.3m) Rocco Forte hotel in Abu Dhabi, the first under the brand in the Middle East, is expected to finally open in June, after a year-long delay, its management said yesterday.

The announcement comes at a time when development of some properties has slowed in the capital.

The unusual curved structure of the building and some changes to the original plans meant the property took far longer than anticipated, said Hagop Doghramadjian, the hotel's general manager.

"A lot of changes came," he said. "We realised that we could do better in some areas and we added a couple of restaurants and another bar."

The 281-room, five-star hotel will now boast seven restaurants and bars, including a South American bar, and a Chinese and Japanese restaurant.

"From what I understood, if this building was a very straightforward rectangular tower we could have finished a long time ago," said Mr Doghramadjian. "But when you go into a snaked shape, then there is not a single pipe which goes straight in this building, so you have to do all these extraordinary variations and changes."

Launching during the slow summer months would be difficult, he said.

"It's not done on purpose. On the trading side it's very slow, but on the internal preparations side it's definitely an advantage to have a slower start."

Numerous other hotel openings in Abu Dhabi have been delayed this year. Among properties that should have already opened, or should be close to opening, are the Ritz-Carlton under construction across the water from the Shangri-La, and the Hyatt hotel in the leaning Capital Gate tower. Herve Humler, the president of Ritz-Carlton, said this month that the waterfront property, with more than 600 rooms, would take an additional 20 months to complete. The Hyatt is not likely to open until towards the end of the year.

Analysts say there may be an effort to slow the developments to allow the market to absorb existing supply.

Profitability in the hotel sector in the capital has declined as supply increased last year.

While the wider Middle East hotel sector experienced a slight improvement last year, occupancy in Abu Dhabi hotels dropped 13.9 per cent to 58.8 per cent, while average rates were down 31.2 per cent to $198.11, resulting in revenue per available room decreasing 40.7 per cent to $116.52, the market forecast company STR Global said yesterday.

But Mr Doghramadjian said rates had previously been too high. "There will be some difficult times where there will be an adjustment to be made because the supply never comes at the same time as the demand," he said.

The hotel is being developed by Al Farida Investments, based in Abu Dhabi, and the Tourism Development and Investment Company.

"Abu Dhabi is growing in appeal in various ways, whether it's in the conventions market, events, sports, the cultural market," said Magdi Samman, an adviser at Al Farida Investments. "You are going to have fluctuations between supply and demand until it stabilises. It's not going to happen overnight. These hotels are here to stay."

The prices at the Rocco Forte property would be in line with Abu Dhabi's top five-star hotels, Mr Doghramadjian said. The hotel is to start recruiting about 400 staff in March.

Rocco Forte is expected to be primarily a business hotel, aimed at conferences, meetings and events, he said, adding that 90 per cent of its business was likely to be from the business travel segment. "We're not on the beach, we're not by Ferrari World, therefore the leisure side will not be our priority."

rbundhun@thenational.ae

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