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Wed 2 May 2012 09:17 AM

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New Dubai hotel aims to rival Vegas for convention business

The JW Marriott Marquis in Dubai will be the world’s tallest hotel when it opens in October

New Dubai hotel aims to rival Vegas for convention business
JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai
New Dubai hotel aims to rival Vegas for convention business
JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai

JW Marriott Marquis, the world’s tallest hotel set to open in Dubai this year, will rely on a growing convention and exhibition industry to fill twin towers that rival the Empire State Building’s height, according to its manager.

“Convention cities like Las Vegas and Orlando have a big network of hotels to draw on,” Rupprecht Queitsch said in an interview in Dubai. “It’s a business Dubai has little of.”

The five-star hotel operated by Marriott International Inc. (MAR) consists of two identical oval towers rising 1,164 feet, just 85 feet shorter than the iconic New York skyscraper. Marriott, which plans to open the first tower in October, is counting on 5,150 square-meters (55,000 square-feet) of banquet space to help attract convention organizers, Queitsch said on April 30.

The 82-story, 1,608-room hotel represents another record- breaking structure for a city that already boasts the tallest building and the largest shopping mall. The highest hotel today, the 72-story Rose Rayhaan, shares Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road with the Marriott project.

The second tower will be completed about 18 months after the first is opened, Queitsch said. Marriott, based in Bethesda, Maryland, will manage the hotel for owner Emirates Airline, the largest carrier by international traffic.

Queitsch, a 58-year-old German, said he has booked a health-care convention for January that will fill a total of 700 rooms for five nights in the hotel, the first Marquis-branded property outside of North America. Hotels in Berlin, Madrid and Lisbon sought to host the event, he said.

“This event will almost take up the whole hotel,” he said.

Dubai, a city-state of around 2 million people, drew 9.3 million tourists last year with landmarks such as the sail- shaped Burj al Arab hotel and the Burj Khalifa skyscraper. Hotels in the city have had average occupancy of 87 percent and revenue per available room is among the highest in the world, even as supply continues to come into the market, according to Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL).

Tourism and retail were bright spots last year in Dubai, which suffered more than 65 percent slump in property values following the global credit crisis and triggered debt crisis at some of the emirate’s largest government related entities.

Desert safaris and Dhow cruises are among the activities being booked by the convention operators, Queitsch said. Such events “bring in a lot of money to the city as visitors eat, shop and go to the beach.”

Dubai is expected to add 12,000 hotel rooms from 2012 to 2014, Stewart Coggans, executive vice president for Middle East and Africa at Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels, said earlier this week. About 79 percent of is expected to be five-star.

“Dubai is quite healthy as around 40 percent of its business comes from the corporate arena, which includes conferencing, while 60 percent comes from leisure business,” Coggans said in a phone interview. “Is it maximizing its conferencing business? Maybe not.”

The 333-meter Rose Rayhaan opened in January 2010, just days after the record-setting Burj Khalifa was unveiled amid fireworks, light and water displays. The alcohol-free hotel, operated by Rotana, caters mainly to clients who adhere to Islam’s prohibition on consuming alcohol.

The closeness of the two hotels shouldn’t affect their business because they have different clientele, Queitsch said.

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