x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Ritz-Carlton already considering second hotel in capital

Ritz-Carlton looking for more opportunities in Abu Dhabi as it readies to open its first hotel in the capital.

Ritz-Carlton is aiming to launch a second hotel in Abu Dhabi as it prepares to open its first property in the capital.

The 532-room Ritz-Carlton, Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal is expected to open at the end of this year or by early next year, said Pascal Duchauffour, the vice president of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company for Europe, Middle East and Africa.

"We will potentially look at Abu Dhabi with a second property because we think the market is a very promising market in the long term," he said.

Mr Duchauffour said he expected the market to be challenging in the short term, however.

"Abu Dhabi is and will remain a very competitive market," he said.

Abu Dhabi National Hotels (ADNH) is developing the first Ritz-Carlton property in the capital.

Ritz-Carlton originally had an agreement signed with Aldar to manage two hotels - one on Nareel Island, also known as Coconut Island, and another as part of Al Dana.

"Those two have not materialised and now we're focusing on the one with ADNH and we're looking at other possibilities within Abu Dhabi. We are no longer in that particular development in Abu Dhabi, Al Dana, and Coconut Island we are not," said Mr Duchauffour. The original plan for the Grand Canal hotel was to have a network of waterways - hence the name. However, Mr Duchauffour said the canal system had been taken out of the final design for the property and replaced by landscaping and greenery.

The luxury operator plans to open its first hotel in Saudi Arabia, in Riyadh, next month.

The company is also keen to eventually have a hotel in Jeddah, Mr Duchauffour said. Ritz-Carlton this year took over the management from the Al Bustan Palace hotel in Muscat from InterContinental Hotels Group and is hoping to have another hotel in Oman. The Levant is another area where it wants to have a presence, Mr Duchauffour said.

"We are actively looking at Lebanon. We would like to be in Beirut." Jordan is also a possible location for a resort, he said.

Average room rates in Abu Dhabi fell to US$109.54 (Dh402.34) last month, a 16.7 per cent decline compared with August last year, according to STR Global, a research firm based in London. Occupancy levels of hotels in Abu Dhabi increased by 3.9 per cent to 49.8 per cent last month.

Tourism was depressed across the Middle East and North Africa region last month because of Ramadan and the regional unrest.

Occupancy levels in Cairo, fell 50.9 per cent to 21.8 per cent, while in Amman, Jordan, there was a 37.7 per cent drop to 28.2 per cent.

rbundhun@thenational.ae