x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Marriott looks to rebound in Dubai occupancy

Marriott's president says its 1,614-room luxury hotel in Dubai will benefit as other projects in the emirate have stalled.

The Marriott hotel with more than 1,600 rooms will open in Dubai next year.
The Marriott hotel with more than 1,600 rooms will open in Dubai next year.

Dubai's biggest new hotel hopes to benefit from a rebound in occupancy levels as many other planned projects remain stalled in construction.

The Dh1.8 billion (US$490.1 million) luxury Marriott hotel being built on Sheikh Zayed Road with more than 1,600 rooms will open half of them next year.

"A lot of projects have stopped," said Ed Fuller, the president and managing director for international lodging at Marriott. "And I think we'll be well positioned to take advantage of that transitional period. Dubai is going to continue to grow."

The twin-tower JW Marriott Marquis development is owned by Emirates Group and located next to the Metropolitan hotel.It will have 1,614 rooms.

Mr Fuller said there were definite signs of improvement in Dubai and the emirate's infrastructure would provide a steady stream of visitors.

"While it's had a huge hiccup, it is only a hiccup," he said. "It is not a permanent problem and you're already seeing the results of that right now.

"I think we're going to have a great year occupancy-wise this year … you have a number of different industries here with tourism leading."

Marriott's planned projects in Dubai, including a hotel in Motor City, have been affected by a slowdown in development.

"We have slowed down a lot of projects," Mr Fuller said. "We have not totally stopped any project in Dubai."

He said rates in Dubai were unlikely to return to their pre-crisis peaks.

"This market was super-heated to start with and so, will we ever see in the next two years the kind of rates that were here before? Probably not."

Globally, Mr Fuller believes it will take between two and three years for the industry to return to the performances of 2007, although strong growth in Asia makes that difficult to specify. Marriott expects its number of properties in the Middle East and Africa to more than double to 74 hotels over the next five years, despite "recent economic and political uncertainties" in the region.

Mr Fuller said he was optimistic the number could even reach 100 hotels and resorts over that period as development opportunities remained strong.

Other properties Marriott plans to open this year and next include a Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh, a Courtyard in Cairo and a property in Bahrain.

Mr Fuller said markets such as Egypt had previously bounced back quickly after events that had affected the industry and would probably do so again.

Marriott was forced to suspend operations at a JW Marriott hotel in Tripoli it had opened days before because of conflict there.

"We still have staff securing the hotel, and so as soon we feel it's appropriate and safe we will reopen the hotel," Mr Fuller said.

rbundhun@thenational.ae