Three’s a crowd: UAE financing, fires and seaside towns
Three’s a crowd: UAE financing, fires and seaside towns
29 JULY 2019 7:32 AM

The United Arab Emirates opens its laws to allow 100% international ownership; several fires rip through hotels in the United Kingdom; and giving seaside towns and their communities the help they need so not all their young ones move to cities.

Three pieces of news caught my attention this week, pieces of news that perhaps do not have enough legs to morph into articles but yet are, I believe, of interest.

UAE opens up to foreign ownership
This month saw the United Arab Emirates pass a law that now allows 100% foreign ownership in 122 economic activities in 13 industry sectors, which includes “hospitality and food services” and “art and entertainment.”

This rather remarkable decision stems from Federal Decree Law Number 19 of 2018 that was made law in November 2018, at which time the Federal Cabinet representing all seven emirates said it would be devise that list of 13 industries.

The decision comes on the eve of Dubai 2020, for which a supply boom has been generated.

STR, the parent company of Hotel News Now, says Dubai, one of the seven emirates, posted in the latest second-quarter 2019 numbers the lowest occupancy since the recession, falling 0.9% to 67.1% “as supply outgrew demand for the sixth consecutive quarter.”

In addition, ADR (-2.3% to AED513.73 or $140) & RevPAR (-13.1% to AED344.65 or $94) came in at their lowest levels since 2003.

The new legislation is a huge step that might either speak of regional challenges in terms of how the UAE sees its economy in a decade or two or how the next step of tourism development (and other industrial development) requires partnerships with international operators.

Before this law, international companies could only hold 49% of the equity, which it might be unfair to say is exactly how things stand in Cuba, too.

Importantly, exiting profits is made far easier.

I shall keep an eye on what I imagine is an uptick in international interest, although with supply remaining solid, location will be top of mind of developers, I would assume.

Hot weather and hotel fires
As I write, the United Kingdom came very close to breaking its temperature records, with 25 July having seen the mercury rise to 38.1 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit).

The record remains in Faversham, in my home county of Kent, where the temperature on 10 August 2003, was measured at 38.5 degrees Celsius (101.3 degrees Fahrenheit).

Paris, 214 miles from London as the crow flies and whose weather is more akin to the U.K. than it is the French Riviera, saw temperatures last Thursday reach a new record of 42.6 degrees Celsius (108.7 degrees Fahrenheit), 1.9 degrees Celsius (35.42 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the previous high.

One cheeky U.K. airline advertisement called to hot Brits to fly to Portugal if they wanted to enjoy cooler weather.

On a more serious note, there is a link between hot temperatures and fires erupting, although not all fires are caused by it being hot, of course, but in the last month hotels seem to be catching alight across the U.K.

Three such cases are chronicled in emails I have squirreled away for this blog, all of which have heightened the importance of triple-checking fire-safety systems, emergency procedures and staff and guest education.

One was at the Premier Inn Bristol Cribbs Causeway on the night of 17 July. The hotel partially collapsed and now seems not to be taking bookings as Whitbread PLC, its owner, starts to rebuild.

On 20 July, the independent, 46-room George in Rye Hotel caught fire in the ancient, gorgeous Sussex town of Rye, but it seems things are better here than at the Bristol hotel. The George’s website does not mention the fire, but its Instagram page does, with its hoteliers thanking guests and the fire department for their bravery, kindness and understanding. Work has already began on restoration.

At the end of April, a fire partly destroyed the Richmond Harbour Hotel, with the London Fire Brigade saying 100 firefighters or so were sent to tackle the blaze.

The fire apparently started in a spa building adjacent to the hotel, part of a five-asset boutique chain. It thankfully did not have to halt operations.

I do like to be beside the seaside
The third sunny weather story I saw this week is that the U.K. Travelodge hotel firm announced it is to open 26 properties dotted around the British seaside, a hotel market that long has struggled despite claims that everyone in this era of Brexit has newly discovered the staycation.

Travelodge has most of its hotels in the U.K., with a handful in Ireland and Spain, so it is likely to have hotels on the coast, but the idea that it has come out to say this is where it is going must give strength to such communities.

The government, too, is looking at ways coastal settlements can be reinvigorated. Travelodge claims its strategy will “represent a potential investment of £165 million ($205 million) or third-party investors and would create around 650 new jobs.”

Many readers probably will not have heard of some of the places it is going—Aberystwyth, Bude, Deal, Lerwick, Penzance, Pwllheli, Truro and Weston-super-Mare, but these are storied and attractive destinations that often share the same challenges—a lack of economic infrastructure, increased austerity and a brain drain.

Every year advertisements on TV tell us to celebrate the Great British Summer as though weeks and weeks of sunshine is a given, while the fall in the value of the pound sterling might have commentators believe Brits are rediscovering their country.

No doubt a little of this is true, but such places need all the help and stimuli they can get to have them be as inviting and vital as their histories are suggestive of.

My favorite? I am fond of Southwold in Suffolk and Broadstairs in Kent.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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