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Wed 6 Jan 2010 11:41 AM

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World's tallest hotel eyes upgrade to five-star

Rotana chiefs upbeat on new hotel despite 2009 slump in Mideast hospitality sector.

Rotana, the UAE-based hotel group which on Wednesday officially opened the world's tallest hotel in Dubai, said it has plans to upgrade it to a five-star property.

At 333 metres tall, the $180m Rose Rayhaan on Sheikh Zayed Road is 72 storeys tall and has 481 rooms, suites and penthouses.

The new hotel will operate under the group's alcohol-free brand, the second in the group after the Al Marwa Rayhaan in Makkah, Saudi Arabia.

Currently a four-star hotel, Rotana plans to upgrade it in the coming months.

“Our plans are to convert the hotel into a five-star hotel over the next five months. We need to build a new restaurant and make some modifications to the units in the rooms. It’s not a complicated process but will take about six to twelve months,” said Omer Z Kaddouri, senior vice president of Rotana.

“Since we opened we have achieved 25 percent occupancy, which for a hotel this size is very good,” he added.

The Rose Rayhaan by Rotana’s title as the world’s tallest hotel has been certified by the Guinness Book of World Records.

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) ranks the Rose Rayhaan by Rotana as the joint 22nd tallest building in the world and the 4th highest overall in Dubai, after the Burj Khalifa, the Almas Tower and Emirates Tower One.

The Shimao International Plaza hotel in Shanghai, which is also 333 metres high, is joint 22nd with the Rose Rayhaan by Rotana. However, the Shimao International Plaza’s highest floor is only 246 metres high, while the highest floor at the Rose Rayhaan is at 258 metres.

Hotel occupancy in the Middle East during the first ten months of 2009 was 61.5 percent and Dubai’s average daily room rate fell by 23.8 percent to $228.87 last year, according to a report by Deloitte. However Kaddouri still has confidence in the Dubai market.

“There has been a lot of speculation about there being too many hotels and saturation point [but] I don’t think there will be a saturation point [where] we will all be suffering and have no occupancy,” he said.

The number of hotel projects planned in the Middle East declined by 17 percent in the third quarter of 2009, according to a new report by US-based hospitality research firm Lodging Econometrics.

However, Rotana still has plans to expand its portfolio of properties to 68 by 2012 and is aiming to have a presence in every major city in the Middle East and North Africa.

Over the next four years, Rotana will open ten hotels per year.

By 2012 the group aims to open eight properties in Abu Dhabi, one in Al Ain, two in Amman, one in Bahrain, one in Baghdad, one in Beirut, three in Dubai, two in Doha, five in Egypt, one in Erbil, one in Fujairah, one in Homs, one in Ras Al Khaimah, one in Salalah, two in Sharjah, one in Sohar and 17 in Saudi Arabia.

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