x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Hotels on track for F1 grand prix

The first of seven openings is scheduled for September as island gears up for the big race.

Work in progress: Rotana, InterContinental Hotels and the Rezidor Hotel Group will each operate two hotels on Yas Island, while Aldar will operate the Yas Hotel.
Work in progress: Rotana, InterContinental Hotels and the Rezidor Hotel Group will each operate two hotels on Yas Island, while Aldar will operate the Yas Hotel.

The seven hotels scheduled to open on Yas Island for the Formula One grand prix on Nov 1 are expected to operate at 100 per cent occupancy during the event, Aldar Properties said Sunday. Firms operating the hotels, which will provide about 2,250 extra rooms for the capital, are already looking beyond the race and hope to fill a gap created by Abu Dhabi's chronic shortage of accommodation, which has kept prices at a premium.

"They'll be delivered in a staggered way and they'll be opening in a staggered way, but they will all be open before the race," said Paul Bell, the managing director of Aldar Hotels and Hospitality, a wholly owned subsidiary of Aldar Properties. Rotana, InterContinental Hotels and the Rezidor Hotel Group will each operate two hotels and Aldar, Abu Dhabi's largest property developer, will operate the Yas Hotel.

According to STR Global, Abu Dhabi has one of the highest profitability rates for hotels anywhere in the world, with revenue per available room increasing to US$290 (Dh1,065) in the first quarter this year compared with $265 in the same quarter last year. The first Yas Island hotel will be open by the beginning of September, two months before the race, when 50,000 spectators and race crews are expected to arrive.

Marko Hytonen, the vice president of Rezidor Middle East, which will operate a Radisson Blu and Park Inn on the island, said the grand prix would provide guaranteed high occupancies only for a few days during the race. "We are looking for different options and we're working with tour operators, but this is still the early days for Yas Island and it will, of course, take a lot of time," Mr Hytonen said. "We have to get creative. It's not going to be easy, but it's a fantastic project."

Mr Bell said the opening of the Ferrari World theme park early next year would boost occupancies and the hotels would target the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) market for business. Six of the hotels will be located near a new golf course designed by Kyle Phillips, which Aldar says is the first "links" golf course in the Middle East. There will be a large mall, several marinas, a water park and theme parks.

The island's proximity to the airport would also provide business, Mr Bell said, while smaller events would be staged at the track throughout the year. "We haven't forecast these hotels to operate at crazy occupancy rates for the first year. But we're confident that we can achieve what we've forecast," he said, declining to reveal the projected occupancy levels. "These are long-term investments. The hotels are designed to deliver against the existing demand in Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is an under-bedded hotel market. These hotels are designed to assist in balancing out the supply and demand situation in Abu Dhabi. Clearly, like any hotel, they'll take time to stabilise."

Joe Batshoun, the general manager of Yas Island Rotana and Centro Yas Island, said: "We are working very closely with Aldar sales and marketing team to set our selling strategies correctly and to ensure coherence between all operators for the promotion of Yas Island destination." The island will eventually have more than 20 hotels, according to Aldar. Mr Bell said construction had started on two other hotels and another two or three were in the detailed planning stage.

"They'll come in line with all of the other attractions that are going to be delivered on Yas Island," he said. rbundhun@thenational.ae