x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Rocco Forte rolls back into town with luxury hotel

As more luxury hotels in Abu Dhabi continue opening their doors this month, demand for plush rooms will soften, warns the hotelier Sir Rocco Forte.

"A lot of new hotels are coming on stream at the five-star level. That will make things quite difficult for a year or so until demand catches up with supply," says Sir Rocco Forte. Delores Johnson / The National
"A lot of new hotels are coming on stream at the five-star level. That will make things quite difficult for a year or so until demand catches up with supply," says Sir Rocco Forte. Delores Johnson / The National

The legendary hotelier Sir Rocco Forte is back in the Emirates with a new hotel from the company bearing his name after an absence of more than three decades.

Sir Rocco, who last operated a hotel in the UAE in the late 1970s under a different company, spoke candidly about the challenges ahead as more luxury hotels open.

"A lot of new hotels are coming on stream at the five-star level. That will make things quite difficult for a year or so until demand catches up with supply," said Sir Rocco, the chairman and chief executive of Rocco Forte Hotels.

The new Rocco Forte Hotels property, built at a cost of more than Dh600 million (US$163.3m) and opening on Monday, will be the company's first in the Middle East.

However, it is coming on to the market when others are also opening to take advantage of an expected rush in visitors for this month's Formula One Grand Prix.

This week, a Park Hyatt opened on Saadiyat Island, while the new Jumeirah Etihad Towers added more than 380 rooms and nearly 200 serviced apartments to the local market.

Resorts by St Regis and Westin are also opening in the capital this month.

"You'll always get a moment where the supply-and-demand balance aren't quite right, so we'll have to live with that," he said.

The Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), which partnered with Al Farida Investments in bringing the Rocco Forte brand to the capital, also has the St Regis and Westin properties in its portfolio.

The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) forecasts that the capital's hotels will host about 2 million guests this year, and it is aiming to attract 2.3 million visitors annually by 2014.

Hagop Doghramadjian, the general manager of the Rocco Forte Hotel Abu Dhabi, expects occupancy at his hotel to be low at first.

"Today we start probably slowly like any other hotel when you open," Mr Doghramadjian. "Our aim is to reach, by March, probably mid-60s, occupancy wise."

The average occupancy in Abu Dhabi's hotels was 67 per cent in September, which was up 9 per cent from the same month a year earlier, according to ADTA.

Additional Rocco Forte hotels are also scheduled to pop up throughout the Middle East and North Africa, including a golf and spa resort in Marrakech, plus two properties in Egypt. A hotel in Jeddah is to open next, in 2013, and a new project is being finalised for Beirut, Sir Rocco said yesterday.

nparmar@thenational.ae