x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

easyHotel to open soon as others await decision

The region's first easyHotel, scheduled to open in Dubai last June, is nearing completion and will open "in the coming months".

The first easyHotel in a delayed US$400 million (Dh1.46 billion) regional expansion is set to open shortly, but the other 38 expected locations are in doubt as the developer rethinks its options. The budget hotel, originally scheduled to open in Dubai's Jebel Ali Free Zone in June this year, is nearing completion and will open "in the coming months", according to the regional master franchiser for the British no-frills brand. Istithmar World, a unit of Dubai World that holds the assets of the former Nakheel Hotels, said on Monday plans to build the other locations have not been finalised. "We are re-evaluating development timelines for additional locations as global market conditions continue to change and we look forward to opening more locations in Dubai in the future," the firm said. The move comes as some industry observers said conditions were ripe for low-cost hotels to make their mark as travellers seek better value for money in difficult economic times. There are no comparable lodgings available in the Dubai market or the Gulf region, said Arnaud Andrieu, the vice president for hotel advisory and indirect investment at CB Richard Ellis Hotels Middle East. "I think it is a good time [to open an easyHotel] because over the last years developers have been very focused on developing high-end hotels," Mr Andrieu said. "Companies and travellers are more and more sensitive to their budgets and the money they spend per night." Dubai World, which developed the $1.5bn Atlantis, The Palm project as a joint venture with Kerzner International, bought the regional franchise for easyHotels in 2006. The brand is part of the entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ioannou's easyGroup, which is best known for its easyJet airline brand. Istithmar Hotels, renamed Nakheel Hotels last year when Dubai World restructured itself, said when it bought the franchise in 2006 that it would invest more than $400m over five years to build 38 easyHotel properties in 17 countries, six of them in Dubai. Dubai World last month transferred hotel and property assets from Nakheel Hotels to Istithmar World as part of another restructuring process. "Our role as an integrated hotel development, investment, and asset management business with a global portfolio of landmark properties does not change," a company spokesman said. "Following the transfer, Istithmar World remains the master franchise owner for easyHotel in the MENA region. The branded budget segment of the market is still under-represented and our hotels, easyHotels, will truly reflect budget pricing." Mr Sita said in April 2007 that more than $2.5m had been invested in designing the chain's room concept. He expected room rates to start at $50 a night. rbundhun@thenational.ae