Marc Dardene is the CEO of the Emaar Hospitality Group and Emaar Hotels & Resorts. In this interview, he gives his input on views on the performance of the hotel industry in the UAE.
Give us your assessment of the Hotel Industry’s performance in the past year.
The UAE has recorded robust growth in tourism this year. According to latest estimates, the number of guests served by Dubai’s hotels during the first half of the year was 4.2 million, compared to 3.85 million during the same period in 2009. The number of hotels and hotel apartments also grew 16 percent, while hotels sustained a healthy occupancy rate of 71.7 percent on average despite the increase in number of hotel rooms.
From which regions have you seen a growth over the last year?
The travel and tourism sector is integrally linked to the overall performance of the economy. With countries like China, GCC, and India, among others, recording healthy growth there are positive trends in business travel, too.
Despite the recent downturns in the economy, what areas are you investing in?
Emaar Hospitality Group has announced plans to take The Address brand across Egypt, Morocco, and France. Other upcoming destinations include Indonesia, Hungary, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, China, UK, and USA.
Research predicts that US$290 million will be spent on technology across new hotels in the Middle East with over 108,600 rooms coming online by 2011. What ways have you found to differentiate yourself from the competition?
Emaar Hospitality Group features a bouquet of experiences providing unique benefits for business and leisure travelers within its properties. Our properties are marked by their distinctive location, superior service standards, and a commitment to offering tangible guest benefits. The Address Downtown Dubai, The Address Dubai Mall, and The Palace–The Old Town are located in downtown Dubai in close proximity to The Dubai Mall and overlooking The Dubai Fountain. The Address Dubai Marina and The Address Montgomerie Dubai are located in the vibrant and prestigious areas of Dubai Marina and Emirates Hills. All properties offer unique services such as a 24-hour-stay benefit for guests booking club rooms and suites, complimentary WiFi, and a fashion advisory service for guests staying at The Address Dubai Mall amongst others.
Can you define what makes a boutique or lifestyle hotel?
Boutique and lifestyle are tags attributed to properties as a way of differentiation; they define a level of individual and personalized attention and go above and beyond offering just the average hotel amenities. Our emphasis is on providing tangible guest benefits in properties defined by a unique location and marked by superior service standards. By constantly engaging and building a rapport with our guests, we form a long-lasting relationship with them, which keeps them coming back.
Are these types of properties viable in the current economic climate?
The key to making a difference in this current economic climate is in assuring tangible guest benefits – which forms the core operational ethos of The Address Hotels + Resorts. All our hotels opened in the midst of the financial crisis, yet have been very successful.
What about the advent of low-cost hotels? How do you think these will affect the market in Dubai?
Dubai’s vibrant tourism offering provides the opportunity for all sectors of hotels to flourish. Low-cost hotels will complement the overall hospitality industry catering to a niche segment. More recently, low-cost airlines have been successfully introduced in the Middle East, and the budget hotels will cater to this segment complimenting the established four- and five-star market nicely.
What is the business outlook for 2011 and beyond, and are you optimistic about the future?
All tourism and travel trends indicate a robust 2011, and we are confident of achieving positive growth and expanding to new, promising markets.