Hotel operator Rotana adding 1,000 rooms in Dubai in time for Expo 2020

The Abu Dhabi hotel operator Rotana is ramping up its expansion plans in the UAE and the wider Middle East and Africa as it looks to operate 100 properties by 2020.

It expects to add hundreds of rooms from two properties in Dubai by 2020, along with entering Morocco in 2018 and expanding its presence in Ishfahan, Iran.

In Dubai, Rotana is looking ahead to the Expo 2020. It will add a 400-room hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road that will also include a 200-room hotel apartment and 400 residences. A 600-room Wafi Rotana is also in the works. Both are expected to open by 2019.

Hotels in the emirate reported a 3.5 per cent decrease in occupancy to 82.5 per cent year-on-year, according to the research company STR Global. The average room rate fell by a sharper 11.6 per cent to Dh833.78.

Despite the fall, Rotana is buoyant on the market.

“Occupancy is down only minimally, and the changes in the daily rates are cyclical and is a sign of the market maturing,” said Omer Kaddouri, the president and chief executive of Rotana. “As long as the Government supports the hotel sector by reinvesting in tourism offices [overseas] and airlines, the demand will be there.”

The first of the group’s hotels to open will be a resort on Saadiyat Island. The 354-room resort, initially planned to open last year, will focus on high-end European tourists and golf enthusiasts.

Abu Dhabi last week introduced new fees on hotel stays – a 4 per cent municipality fee on hotel bills and a Dh15 charge per night per room.

“The fees are a sign that our markets are maturing,” said Mr Kaddouri. “It shows that we are falling in line with how business is done in the rest of the world.”

Rotana, along with other hotel groups in Abu Dhabi, is still awaiting an official communication from a government to implement the charges.

Abu Dhabi had 24,457 rooms at the end of March, according to the research company STR.

The group is also set to expand in Africa, with the 140-room M Avenue Arjaan by Rotana in Marrakech in Morocco in 2018.

Besides the North African country, Rotana has set its sights on other countries in the continent.

It has properties under development in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Lagos in Nigeria and Luanda in Angola. However, the first of its hotels to open will be the 100-room Kin Plaza Arjaan by Rotana in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo this year.

Meanwhile, Iran is also on the radar as the lifting of sanctions makes it easier to do business with the country.

The group is eyeing two properties in Isfahan by 2019. The first of these is expected next year. It has four properties with a total of 640 rooms under development in Tehran and Mashhad, planned to open by 2018. These include Rayhaan by Rotana Mashhad, the four-star Tehran Rayhaan by Rotana and the five-star Tehran Rayhaan by Rotana.

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