x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Atlantis rises to the occasion

Despite the blaze that caused damage estimated at up to US$35 million, the $1.5 billion resort, is opening on schedule.

The damaged part of Atlantis Hotel after the fire.
The damaged part of Atlantis Hotel after the fire.

DUBAI // The recent fire at the Atlantis hotel on Palm Jumeirah caused damage estimated at up to US$35 million (Dh128m), its management said yesterday. The blaze spread through the lobby of the hotel, destroying a 43-metre dome that had to be replaced. The hotel, which is part-owned by Kerzner International, opens to its first guests today. Alan Leibman, its president and managing director, said: "The fire did put a strain on the business, but I'm sure that our new lobby will look as good as it first did."

Despite the blaze, the $1.5 billion resort, which includes 1,539 rooms and an 11 million-litre aquarium housing 6,500 fish, is opening on schedule. "We have a very committed team and that's why we had to stick to our deadline," said Mr Liebman. "Currently, we are working with our insurance and waiting to see what will happen." An initial police investigation concluded that welders might have accidentally sparked the blaze.

According to Mr Leibman, guests calling their booking desk have not been discouraged. "So far we have had a very positive response from the public who have been booking their stays with us since the beginning of September and our occupancy rates are over 50 per cent," he said. Room rates are from $450 a night for a standard room to $25,000 for the 924-square metre Bridge Suite. Bookings have come from Europe, the GCC and North Africa, Mr Leibman said, adding that he was confident the US financial crisis would not hurt business.

"Our corporate motto is blowing away the customer. With all the facilities we are providing, I think people would still travel to see Atlantis." He added that he had no intention of lowering room rates. The project. a joint venture between Kerzner International, based in The Bahamas, and Istithmar, a subsidiary of Dubai World, includes a water park, dolphinarium, shops, conference halls and 17 restaurants.

It covers 50 per cent of the 114-hectare area allocated to the Atlantis project. Mr Leibman said public feedback from the first phase of the development would help to determine how the remaining area was used. One unusual aspect of the resort is the Leap of Faith water slide with a 27.5 metre vertical drop. After a sheer plunge, guests are sent speeding through a transparent tunnel inside a shark-filled aquarium. It is billed as the tallest, fastest free-fall slide in the Middle East.

"We have been getting a lot of interest from people asking when the Aquapark will open," said Mr Liebman. Entry to the water park will be Dh220 for adults and Dh190 for children. abakr@thenational.ae