By Claire Ferris-Lay
Group president says project likely to open in 2012, 2nd Dubai hotel by end of 2009.
The Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi is expected to delay its opening by one year, the hotel operator’s president and CEO said on Monday.
The luxury hotel in the UAE capital was scheduled to open in 2011 but in an interview with Arabian Business, Simon Cooper said that it would “probably” open in 2012.
“It’s relatively on schedule. I would probably err to 2012 if you asked me,” he said, without elaborating on the reasons for the delay.
He added that the chain’s second hotel in Dubai, at Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), would open at the end of this year.
Many UAE real estate developments have been canceled and delayed since the global crisis bought an end of a regional boom last year.
Tourism, which accounts for 19 percent of GDP in Dubai, is also coming under increasing pressure as fewer people are taking holidays amid the global downturn.
According to travel research firm, STR Global, hotel occupancy in Dubai was down 15.8 percent in March while revPAR (revenue per available room) fell by almost 41 percent, suggesting that hotels have lowered their rates.
Cooper said Dubai’s tourism industry had been the most impacted in the region, but added that the Ritz Carlton hotels in Bahrain, Qatar and Egypt had been fairing well. “Obviously Dubai is the most impacted in the region...Egypt is not doing too badly, if you look at some of the more business focused [markets] - Qatar and Bahrain aren’t doing too badly,” he said.
“You have to look at the source markets for Dubai – you have not only got a residential challenge in terms of selling everything [that] is being built, but then you look at the source markets, primarily the UK and Germany and those are tough markets right now so it’s hardly surprising.
When asked if he thought that Dubai would be one of the first tourist regions to bounce back as has been predicted, Cooper said he didn’t expect it to improve until its biggest source markets did.
“I am not a big believer in bouncing back right now...If the UK is not going to bounce back, Dubai won’t bounce back.
“When you are looking at markets returning you have to look at the source market and [ask] how quickly are they going to recover, how quickly are people going to have a disposable income and how quickly are they going to be coming back to Dubai and spending $500-600 a night?”