x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Golf resort finally set to tee off

The delayed Westin resort at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club is set to open in November.

Klaus Niefer, the general manager of the Westin hotel, says the property will strongly appeal to the business sector. Andrew Henderson / The National
Klaus Niefer, the general manager of the Westin hotel, says the property will strongly appeal to the business sector. Andrew Henderson / The National

A long-delayed, Dh783 million (US$213.1m) luxury resort at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club is to open its doors in November.

The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort and Spa, being developed by Abu Dhabi's Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), was originally scheduled to open at the end of 2009. But the project suffered construction delays as contractors were changed, said Klaus Niefer, the general manager of the property.

"It started and it stopped," he said.

The resort, which will adjoin the golf course, is expected to strongly appeal to the business sector for meetings, incentives and corporate events, Mr Niefer said. He hopes the resort will also play an important role in Abu Dhabi's plans to become a golfing destination.

Sports such as sailing, golf and motor racing play a critical part in Abu Dhabi's tourism strategy as it aims to attract 2.3 million hotel guests annually by next year, with a strong focus on appealing to high-spending visitors.

"The golf could be for recreational weekend business and also for business from Europe, where Abu Dhabi is really an emerging destination for European golfers to come," said Mr Niefer.

Two new championship golf courses opened in Abu Dhabi last year: a course designed by Gary Player on Saadiyat Beach; and another on Yas Island designed by Kyle Phillips.

The hotel's developer, TDIC, has said it has put some of its projects on hold, while others have been scaled back, as it continues to monitor the property market in Abu Dhabi. Property prices in Abu Dhabi have fallen by about half since their peak in 2008.

The Westin resort has 172 guest rooms, six food and beverage outlets as well as banquet facilities.

Mr Niefer expects its restaurants to attract residents from nearby areas including Khalifa City and Al Raha Gardens.

The Westin brand is owned by Starwood, which includes Le Meridien, St Regis, Aloft and Sheraton properties.

A number of hotels are expected to open here before the end of the year, including the Jumeirah Etihad Towers hotel and a Park Hyatt resort. Occupancy levels in Abu Dhabi have picked up, but hotel rates have continued to decline.

Occupancy rose to 71 per cent in July compared with 69 per cent in the same month last year, according to Ernst & Young. However, rates fell by 8 per cent in July, to Dh544 (US$148.10) from Dh591.

The Westin property would be entering a highly competitive market, Mr Niefer admitted.

"You have seen a slight increase in occupancy, where the rates are challenged. I think we are in a unique situation because of the location being part of the Abu Dhabi Golf Club. There will be a certain amount of business which we will take away from other hotels."

The majority of the 270 staff, made up of about 50 nationalities, are expected to arrive this month. There are currently 1,500 labourers on site completing the final stages of the hotel. "In particular the German-speaking golf market is very interested to come to Abu Dhabi as a future destination," said Mr Niefer. "I can see there is a huge potential for golf in this part of the region."