x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Rosewood luxury hotel back on course

A long-delayed Rosewood luxury hotel at Dubai International Financial Centre is going ahead after its original developer, a New York company, exited the project, its operator says.

The new hotel at the DIFC will have 250 rooms. Paulo Vecina / The National
The new hotel at the DIFC will have 250 rooms. Paulo Vecina / The National

A long-delayed Rosewood luxury hotel at Dubai International Financial Centre is going ahead after its original developer, a New York company, exited the project, its operator says.

The hotel is part of a Dh1.6 billion (US$435.6 million) mixed-use project, which also has apartments and offices, being built in the financial district by Daman Investments.

The Rosewood property was originally going to be built by the US developer JMJ Hospitality. But that company is no longer involved in the project, with Daman now building the hotel, according to Rosewood. An opening was originally planned for 2009, but it is now scheduled to open in mid-2013.

"It was a developer issue," said Elias Assaly, the vice president of operations at Rosewood Hotels and Resorts. "That's been resolved now, so the owner of the building is going to develop the hotel. … [Daman] was building the whole building and it leased the hotel floors to another company to do the hotel. That relationship, something happened with it, and now Daman is going to develop the hotel. [Construction] is very well advanced."

The 250-room hotel is being built opposite a Ritz-Carlton hotel, which opened its doors at the beginning of this year.

Rosewood also has a hotel under development by Mubadala on Sowwah Island, which is to become the home of Abu Dhabi's new commercial district.

That property, which is planned to have 189 rooms and more than 130 serviced apartments, is scheduled to open in September next year.

Mr Assaly said the property would benefit from its location in the central business district because several luxury hotels were being built elsewhere in Abu Dhabi and were expected to open ahead of the Rosewood hotel.

There are 7,438 rooms under construction in the capital, according to STR Global, a hotel research company based in the UK. Another report by STR shows a 40 per cent decline in gross operating profit per available room at hotels in Abu Dhabi last year over the previous year, with the increase in supply cited as the reason behind the drop.

The vast Cleveland Clinic hospital being built next door to the Rosewood is also expected to be a major driver of guests to the hotel.

"I think that the association and the connection that we have with the Cleveland Clinic is going to be invaluable," said Mr Assaly." The hotel is actually connected via a tunnel to the Cleveland Clinic."

With several hundred doctors expected to work at the hospital and educational programmes going on that are expected to attract medics on short-term visits, combined with patients and their families, the hospital would provide a constant stream of business, he said.

"We believe the hospital eventually will be between 30 and 40 per cent of the business."

Mr Assaly said construction of the hotel had taken longer than anticipated, largely because of the time it took to put the infrastructure in place.

A managing director for the hotel has recently been appointed and three executives are due to join within the next few weeks, including an executive chef and a director of sales and marketing. The hotel will eventually employ about 850 people.

A Four Seasons hotel is also being built nearby on the island. A Viceroy hotel was planned, but the future of that property remains uncertain.

Rosewood, based in Dallas, has 20 hotels. It has resorts in locations including Mexico and the Caribbean, as well as a significant presence in Saudi Arabia, with three hotels in the kingdom.

Last month, it was announced Rosewood Hotels and Resorts was to be bought by New World Hospitality, based in Hong Kong, with the sale due to close at the end of this month.

The operator is looking for further opportunities in the region, Mr Assaly said.

"Now we're also working on projects in Bahrain and in Cairo," he said.

Agreements for hotels in these locations were "almost" signed, he said. The company is also considering opening a resort outside Riyadh.

rbundhun@thenational.ae