Looking beyond the current healthy state of tourism in Dubai and the rest of the United Arab Emirates, executives from AccorHotels and 25hours Hotels say the next generation of visitors wants experiential stays.
RAS AL KHAIMAH, United Arab Emirates—The United Arab Emirates has succeeded in transforming itself over the last two decades into a tourism favorite and transportation hub, but the country is not resting on its laurels, according to sources.
Hoteliers in the region are already preparing for the next generation of guests.
At last month’s Arabian Hotel Investment Conference, two hoteliers and one property owner discussed the upcoming 424-room 25hours Hotel One Central, Dubai, which is an example of how forward-thinking developers and operators are keeping things fresh and with the next generation firmly in mind.
The property broke ground this winter and is scheduled to open in 2020 at the Dubai World Trade Centre.
“This will be a hotel where it is less about luxury equaling spend, but rather the experience,” said Christoph Hoffmann, CEO and partner of 25hours Hotels.
AccorHotels, which has owned 30% of 25hours since 2016, is partnering with the company on the project, according to Gaurav Bhushan, AccorHotels’ chief development officer.
“To grow stickiness with customers we have to innovate and move with the times. (Hoffmann) brings the expertise and DNA,” Bhushan said. “(Hoffmann) did not initially want to do Dubai. (AccorHotels) told him we think we know Dubai. Come and see the city. Just because Dubai has tall buildings doesn’t mean it hasn’t culture and soul. Dubai will be a flagship for the brand.”
Gurjit Singh, SVP of real estate at Dubai World Trade Centre, said he is also focused on future first-time guests who are looking for something different from Dubai. Singh said the Dubai World Trade Centre has four different types of hospitality product, and three are affiliated with AccorHotels.
Bhushan said the new 25hours property will fit in nicely with AccorHotels’ other assets in the Dubai World Trade Centre.
“Our thinking is that we need a diverse portfolio to extend the visitor stay and spend,” Bhushan said, who added the center attracts four million visitors a year. “25hours is a provocative brand, which we think will sit easily in our center to raise our experiential quotient.”
Singh said the complex’s hospitality plan is to be as creative as possible within the midscale segment. Hoffmann said the 25hours brand brings something new to the market.
“25hours is about soul and storytelling,” Hoffmann said. “There was never a plan or strategy, but an idea based on friendship and a little bit of romanticism as to what we wanted from a hotel. Originally, there was not the highest level of hospitality.”
Bhushan said Dubai will benefit from having a property that draws on the destination, rather than another hotel that is self-contained, however grand and hospitable.
“(25hours) brings open spaces into the hotel. The hotel can be the living room for a special crowd in Dubai,” he said.
There also are hotel companies that have gone to great lengths to nurture the next generation of guests.
“A hotel is as much about the software as it is about the hardware,” Singh said.
25hours and AccorHotels
Hoffmann and Bhushan talked candidly about the relationship between their two companies.
“We have been successful with 10 hotels in (Germany, Austria and Switzerland), but we knew we’d have to partner up, say in Sao Paolo, Shanghai, etc., so we asked, who can support us on these travels?” Hoffmann said. “The deal with Accor is based on trust and collaboration.”
Bhushan said AccorHotels found a lot to like in the 25hours brand.
“25hours brings you some cool,” he said. “For us, it was love at second sight, and we talked about what we could bring to the table. (Hoffmann)’s concern was that a huge corporation will kill all 25hours had done, so we had to set up a structure to make sure that does not happen.”
Hoffmann said AccorHotels and 25hours are in agreement about the appropriate pace of growth.
“A potential conflict would be that one side would want it to grow to 500 hotels,” Hoffmann said. “We have agreed on 50 destinations.”
AccorHotels currently has no plans to own 25hours Hotels outright, Bhushan said.
“It was important not to own the whole brand,” Bhushan said. “The brand will be different in every city, and, of course, Accor has the global ability to bring in customers.”
Hoffmann was asked what could cause 25hours to walk away from the deal with AccorHotels.
“To be honest, I do not know how to answer that now,” he said. “We are still shareholders, so we have to find a way through (any problems). I might be a little more cautious. AccorHotels might be a little more dynamic as that is how it sees growth.”
Bhushan said there’s room for compromise and thoroughly vetting decisions.
“It might sound clichéd, but (a good marriage) has to be via agreements,” he said.