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Tue 18 Oct 2011 08:06 AM

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Waldorf Astoria to debut on Dubai’s Palm

Deal with Dubai’s Al Habtoor Group will also see Hilton take over two Beirut properties

Waldorf Astoria to debut on Dubai’s Palm
The planned AED1bn ($272m) resort is being built by Al Habtoor Group

The first Waldorf Astoria resort is to open in Dubai following a deal between local conglomerate Al Habtoor Group and hospitality chain Hilton Worldwide.

The planned AED1bn ($272m) resort, which is being built by Al Habtoor, was suspended in the wake of the financial crisis that spurred the collapse of Dubai’s real estate market.

But the Dubai developer said last month it would restart construction work on the 330-room hotel and announced Monday the property would be managed under Hilton’s Waldorf Astoria brand.

“[I am] committed to participating [in Dubai real estate] and meeting my commitments by adding more projects, which we are going to announce soon,” chairman Khalaf Al Habtoor told Arabian Business. “This is funded from our own cash flow; it is not funded by any banks.”

The launch will mean fresh competition for state-backed hotel resort Atlantis which, until recently, had benefited from being the Palm’s sole hotel since its opening three years ago.

More than 30 themed resorts had been planned for the iconic island before the onset of the global financial crash in late-2008, but were scaled back dramatically as project financing dried up.

Kempinski confirmed in March this year that it was mothballing its 253-room Emerald Palace project on the Palm until at least 2013, citing oversupply in the market.

State-backed Jumeirah Group also said in May it would suspend the planned Jumeirah Al Fattan Palm Resort.

Nakheel, the master developer behind the Palm, said it February it had scrapped plans to build the $2.9bn Trump International Hotel and Tower, which was to be located on the Palm’s trunk.

Hotels still due to open include Rixos’ Palm property in December, Mövenpick’s Oceana Resort, the Sofitel Spa resort, the Habtoor Island Resort and Spa, and Hilton.

Branded properties One&Only The Palm and Jumeirah Zabeel Saray opened earlier this year.

Monday’s announcement will also see Hilton Worldwide take over the management of two Beirut properties owned by Al Habtoor, marking the US chain’s first entry into the Lebanese market.

The company will convert and manage the Habtoor Grand and Metropolitan Palace in Beirut. Both properties are expected to open in early 2012.

“Our partnership I hope will not be limited to these three hotels. Maybe someday somewhere else [we will work together],” said Al Habtoor. “One of the fastest growth rates we have in the world is in this region. Over the next few years we'll double our presence in the region,' said Christopher Nassetta, president of Hilton Worldwide.

“We're very excited about what is happening in this part of the world. Dubai, the UAE and the broader Middle East has tremendous economic fundamentals in terms of what is going on in demand over the next 5-10, 15-20 years.”

Hilton Worldwide has signed 18 new hotels in the Middle East and Africa this year, taking its total number of hotels in the development pipeline in the region to 40.

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