If this Gulf state never seizes to amaze you, then brace yourself for more. The largest hospitality and leisure development in the world is yet to descend on the planet. And yes– in Dubai again.
Located towards the Bab al Shams Desert Resort & Spa (near Sheikh Mohamed’s remote, private retreat in the desert where the ruler’s pricey camels and stallions breed I reckon) and near the future Dubai Investment Park and upcoming new Jebel Ali Airport is the monster development of Bawadi.
Set to be one of the premier tourist destinations in the world, Bawadi will have the largest clusters of hotels in the globe boasting 51 hotels offering 60,000 hotel rooms sprawled over a 10-square-kilometer space. Bawadi is being groomed to be the world’s most exciting entertainment and leisure destinations, offering amusement centers, shopping malls, theaters, restaurants and convention centers. To underscore Dubai’s namesake of being the world’s shopping capital, Bawadi will create the largest shopping area, providing over 40 million square feet of gross leaseable area with malls, boutique malls, street shopping and an underground shopping connecting all Bawadi’s elements into the longest shopping boulevard on earth.
Being developed in five phases to match the growth of tourism in Dubai, Bawadi’s shopping feature will enhance its offerings and accelerate its drive to develop a world-class hospitality and tourism project in the Emirates and the region.
Arif Mubarak, CEO of Bawadi said with confidence: “Bawadi is a destination by itself. As we are owned by Dubai’s Tatweer, a company owned by Dubai Holding, we are developing en-masse our own hotels. Out of the 60,000 rooms, we will own 30,000 keys, run our investments, own our business plans and do our own feasibilities. We’ve also signed up with Emaar Properties that owns a piece of land with 5,000 rooms in Bawadi; we are the destination managers for the overall project.”
For such a gigantic project, developing almost a Las Vegas strip, construction must be a big challenge. With construction costs going up, Mubarak discloses that cost will not affect the returns on hotels though. He said they sit on the high side of the hotel returns, specifically with the ROI. “There will be a drop but it will not be considerably negative. Hotels will remain profitable and will be a very lucrative business,” the Bawadi CEO said.
Is Bawadi looking to market to the US and the Europe? “People come and go to Dubai and make a fortune. The hospitality and tourism industry has become a great support for investments. The slowdown in US market gives Dubai and this region a great advantage. This region will definitely capture that slowdown. The US market is not and has never been a prime market in Dubai and for this region. We always looked at the 4 to 6 hour flights for markets. Any market within the 4 to 6 hour flying distance gives us the advantage,” said Mubarak.
Mubarak, however, said Dubai should improve on its convention and meetings facilities. Hotels and attractions related to entertainment will not be enough to cater to the conventions. As Dubai has now come up with three hubs serving its visitors, such as the current World Trade Center hub, the new airport hub and the upcoming Bawadi hub, Mubarak believes they have a responsibility to support the MICE sector of Dubai in return.
A huge convention facility will be in place to cater to the visitors of the 51 hotel operators, complementing the family entertainment offerings of the biggest development on earth. Dubai’s business now actively driven by the new drivers, such as media (Dubai Media City), IT (Dubai Internet City) and the education (Dubai Knowledge Village) sectors outside the already jam-packed Free Zone will be good for the Bawadi hotel chains. “This makes us attractive that hotels are not identified with any of these zones specifically or exclusively, but they all become part of Dubai, selling product and receiving tourism product which leverages hotel operation in the most effective ways,” added Mubarak.
Bawadi has made a commitment to sustainability incorporating green and sustainable design throughout the development. Landscape and green spaces will be used to provide a structure to the development by helping to define the boundary of the development and character areas and through providing connecting green corridors which link the character areas.
The so-called Boulevard will be a wide heavily-landscaped shopping street adapted for outdoor use throughout the year. Arterial routes will be provided with street trees to help mitigate the effects of traffic and provide a more pleasant street environment. “We are pushing the developers, who always push us back, to abide by the ruler Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s new initiatives for sustainability. Developers complain about the cost related with going sustainable but Bawadi will stay sustainable; in the long-term, developers will get back more than what they are saving from being sustainable. This is more attractive than being just a door and window hotel,” explained the head of Bawadi – the newest of Dubai’s cultural melting pot that offers an exhaustive selection of hospitality, entertainment, shopping and food and beverage in the middle of what is today’s patch of desert – but not for long .