x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Monaco major has plans for Saadiyat

Monte Carlo Beach Club's operator wants to have a hotel on Saadiyat Island.

The Tourism Development and Investment Company, which is behind the Monte Carlo Beach Club, above, is planning to build a hotel alongside it on Saadiyat Island. Andrew Henderson / The National
The Tourism Development and Investment Company, which is behind the Monte Carlo Beach Club, above, is planning to build a hotel alongside it on Saadiyat Island. Andrew Henderson / The National

A Monaco company behind one of Abu Dhabi's most exclusive beach clubs plans to restart talks to build a hotel alongside it on Saadiyat Island.

Little progress has been made on the hotel plan since it was first discussed with the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) more than two years ago.

"We had envisioned the possibility, but it all depends on our friends at TDIC to see how they now bring the development of Saadiyat," said Bernard Lambert, the chief executive of Monte Carlo Société des Bains de Mer (SBM), a hotel and casino operator that is the biggest employer in Monaco. The Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) is the developer behind Saadiyat Island, which is designed to eventually have branches of the Guggenheim and Louvre museums.

"When we started discussing with TDIC, that was the plan, to build the club, and at the same time we had discussions about the possibility of developing a hotel," Mr Lambert said. "We will start again discussing eventually next year. There is nothing cast in stone as of yet."

SBM, the largest operator of luxury hotels in Monaco, has landmark properties including Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo.

The Abu Dhabi luxury beach club, which opened last month, is the company's first venture outside Monaco. The club, which offers private beach access, swimming pools and restaurants, charges annual membership fees starting at Dh35,000 (US$9,528) and range up to Dh219,000 for access to a bungalow. The bungalows have yet to be built.

Mr Lambert said the club had already signed up more than 20 members.

"It's starting slowly," he said.

He explained that the decision to launch in Abu Dhabi was partly because the opportunity presented itself, but also because of strong similarities between Monte Carlo and Abu Dhabi.

"Even if you want Paris on the Champs Elysées, you cannot have it immediately, or London in Mayfair, you cannot have it immediately.

"We are very close in terms of values. We are very culturally centred. We own the opera house, we are a sponsor of the arts. The race track for the Monte Carlo Grand Prix. We have a lot of things in common, so we believed that there was a good fit between the two."

The company says the current economic situation in Europe is likely to present challenges to its business at home.

"It's been affected to a certain degree because of this economic situation, even though we have had a very good season so far. We had a record summer, a record September. There was the effect of the royal wedding."

"The winter is going to be challenging one. Part of our business is very unknown - you don't know when someone is going to come and lose 22 million. But if the situation doesn't improve, especially in the euro zone, then of course we are going to have a winter that is going to be a little bit more difficult."

The principality has yet to fully recover from the impact of the global economic crisis. "Our high rollers, if they have been affected by the stock exchange, they have less money to spend. In the US, it has been difficult for the past two or three years, so the companies are not [spending] on incentives. We are starting to see that again for 2013.

"The UK has been suffering in terms of corporate business. We used to have quite a number of financial institutions coming for meetings."

However, business from the Middle East, Russia and countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States are all growing markets for tourism to Monaco.

For SBM, the number of guests from the Middle East increased by 27 per cent this summer, compared with last summer. Middle Eastern visitors accounted for 10 per cent of the company's business compared with 7 per cent last year.

This was driven by promotions and an interest in the brand generated by the announcement of Monte Carlo Beach Club in Abu Dhabi, Mr Lambert said.

rbundhun@thenational.ae