x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Banyan Tree in fresh spat with Gulf partner

Banyan Tree, the Singapore-based hotel management company, is locked in a dispute with Al Areen over claims it is owed more than US$1 million (Dh3.7m).

The Banyan Tree Al Areen desert resort and spa in Manama is a high-end villa resort.
The Banyan Tree Al Areen desert resort and spa in Manama is a high-end villa resort.

Banyan Tree, the Singapore-based hotel management company, is locked in a dispute with Al Areen, the owner of its luxury resort in Bahrain, over claims it is owed more than US$1 million (Dh3.7m). The row is just the latest in a string of contentious ventures in the Gulf for Banyan Tree.

The company said it had filed a petition to wind up the Al Areen Desert Spa and Resorts Holding Company as Al Areen had an outstanding debt of $1,122,000. Al Areen declined to comment on the dispute. Last month, it emerged that Banyan Tree was at odds with the Dubai property developer Meydan over an agreement to manage a luxury hotel and resort at the new Dh10 billion Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. Details of the problem were not revealed, but Jumeirah Group, the Dubai Holding subsidiary that manages the Burj Al Arab, is managing the hotel, which opened last week.

Meydan has said it is inviting companies to bid for its management contract. Banyan Tree's Angsana Dubai hotel closed last year. The building was sold by Damas, whose former chief executive admitted engaging in deals that were not approved by shareholders. Banyan Tree said last September it agreed to "amicably terminate the management contract" with Damas. On Wednesday, Banyan Tree said its problems in the Gulf were linked to the global financial downturn. "It is common knowledge that the financial crisis has impacted several entities in the Middle East; to a certain degree, it has affected some of our hotels," a spokeswoman for Banyan Tree said.

"We endeavour to operate with the highest standards and if we are unable to settle issues amicably, we need to defend our own credibility and as a matter of principle, take a firm position with regards to any breaches and outstanding debts." Indicating its plans for the region, it has signed agreements to manage the Banyan Tree Marine Reserves and Spa Al Gurm and the Angsana Abu Dhabi resort. "While we remain committed to the GCC region and will continue to explore opportunities, it is very important that we find like-minded partners who sincerely share our vision and demonstrate a commitment to the Banyan Tree brand experience," the company said.

"Our plans to open in other parts of the Middle East continue to be on track. In January this year, we soft-opened Banyan Tree Al Wadi, a 101-key desert, beach and golf resort in the Ras al Khaimah emirate north of Dubai. There are also five other projects under development in Abu Dhabi, Egypt and Oman." The Banyan Tree Al Areen desert resort and spa in Manama is a high-end villa resort with rates starting at about £500 (Dh2,760) a night. The property, which opened in 2007, was the company's first resort in the Middle East.

It is popular among its guests and is rated as the top choice of the 73 hotels listed in Manama on Expedia's consumer review website TripAdvisor, despite one guest's account of seeing a mouse in the living room of her luxury villa. @Email:rbundhun@thenational.ae