CW 2015 UAE Infra Conf: Twice as nice

Dubai needs to double its hotel space within the next five years while ensuring long term viability of the hospitality sector

Panel moderator Sachin Kerur (left) with [from left] Sumaya Dabbagh, Stephen Flint and Issam Ezzeddine.
Panel moderator Sachin Kerur (left) with [from left] Sumaya Dabbagh, Stephen Flint and Issam Ezzeddine.

With 40,000 new hotel rooms expected to hit the Dubai property market in time for Expo 2020, the emirate has several challenges to overcome if it’s to meet hospitality targets for the event.

Dubai is planning to host 25m visitors during the six-month long event, and the enduring legacy of investment, innovation and ideas sparked during the Expo is expected to serve as a catalyst for the future of the emirate.

But a panel of experts gathered for Construction Week’s UAE Infrastructure Summit 2015 said that there were a number of key problems that needed to be overcome in the next five years if Dubai was to be ready in time.

Stephen Flint, group general manager at Khansaheb Civil Engineering said that it was an enormous undertaking.
“The challenge of those figures is more than an aspiration, it’s the volume. We’re probably talking about doubling the capacity as it is in Dubai today.

It’s absolutely huge, to deliver hotel accommodation on that scale. It’s not just the hotel accommodation: you’ve got staff to accommodate to manage and run these hotels, so it brings a huge volume of work into the marketplace,” he said.

Issam Ezzeddine, principal design architect at National Engineering Bureau, said; “I think the experience which Dubai gained in 2001-02 to 2008-09 brought a lot of lessons for the government and decision makers.

Yes, there is a challenge coming up to the 2020, but I think there is a very strong vision from the leaders and the team around the leaders about how to create this plan on building these 20-40,000 keys [hotel rooms]. There must be a strategy. It’s a challenge, but it is achievable.”

Architect Sumaya Dabbagh said that while the challenges were not insurmountable, the build-up to Expo 2020 offered Dubai a chance to build projects that reflect its diversity.

“At the moment we’ve done work on hotels that are five-star luxury, but the demographics of the people that are visiting are changing, even within the Saudis who are coming. There are a lot looking for affordable hotel rooms for big families, and there is an opportunity to deliver three- and four-star hotel rooms that are currently lacking.

“I think Dubai has really marketed itself as a luxury or high-end attraction. Now, the visitors are changing. We have a lot of events such as Art Dubai that are attracting different people like creatives and homegrown talent, and they’re looking for something that has a bit more character, and something that is regional, too.

“A lot of the hotels here lack that. Even the Saudis come here and think ‘is this an Arabic country?’ It’s definitely something that I think is an opportunity for developers to look into.”

She added that it was also important that the Emirate’s culture not be sidelined in the process.

“For the longer term, to make the 2020 event a more sustainable one, the old part of the town is really the heart
and soul of the city. To ignore that, which was what happened in the last boom, would be a real missed opportunity. It was missed then, and I would hope that it’s not going to be missed with this one,” she said.

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