x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Hilton Hotels casts eye on Saadiyat

The island, which is under development, will house branches of the Guggenheim and the Louvre museums.

Hilton Hotels is planning to expand in Abu Dhabi and studying opportunities on Saadiyat Island, according to a senior executive at Hilton Middle East. The company's main focus for expansion and development in the Middle East this year was Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, said Elie Younes, the vice president of development for Hilton in the Middle East.

"[Saadiyat] is part of our geographic targets within Abu Dhabi. We are looking at identifying opportunities in Saadiyat and elsewhere, and in talks," he said. "We are at various stages on different locations in Abu Dhabi. Some are very advanced, some are initial talks, but we will definitely be announcing something this year, probably in the last quarter." Saadiyat Island, which is under development, will house branches of the Guggenheim and the Louvre museums. The Starwood, Park Hyatt, Rotana and Shangri-La hotel groups have been confirmed as operators of properties in the Saadiyat Beach district, which is the fastest-developing part of the island, according to the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), the project's developer.

Operators for a further five hotels on Saadiyat Beach have yet to be announced and there will be opportunities for hotels in other areas of the island, such as the marina. "I can assure you that we, either us directly or our partners, are in discussions with other world-class operators and hopefully in the next five months or six months we will be able to announce those operators for Saadiyat Beach," a spokesman for TDIC said.

The resorts on Saadiyat Beach are being developed by TDIC or other investors, such as Abu Dhabi National Hotels (ADNH). "Activity is still happening in Abu Dhabi, both in terms of tourism visitation and in terms of development activity," Mr Younes said. "This is one of the reasons why we're focused on Abu Dhabi now. "We believe in this market and think in the long term it has great prospects. We are currently looking at a number of opportunities in Abu Dhabi with various partners, most of whom are local partners. Our target is to partner with local institutions or individuals in Abu Dhabi rather than outsiders."

Hilton has 19 signed management agreements for hotels in the Middle East and Africa which are scheduled to open within the next three years, 14 of which are in the Middle East. The company said it aimed to have another 20 hotels signed and executed in the region over this period. In Abu Dhabi, the company operates three hotels and its luxury Conrad hotel is due to open in the second quarter of 2011. Last month, Hilton Hotels announced it had signed is first two management agreements for Hilton Garden Inn, its mid-market brand, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The first of these is due to open this year and Hilton said there would be more agreements.

"We will be making a few announcements over the next two months, definitely something over the next month, but there's much more to come this year," said Mr Younes. However, he also warned that there could be some delays on developments given the economic environment, although cancellations of projects were unlikely. @Email:rbundhun@thenational.ae