Nick Ames visits the ibis styles hotel in Dubai, one of the city’s first hospitality projects with an eye towards affordability.
With Expo 2020 on the horizon, a new approach to hospitality is seeing an increase in three and four-star hotels in Dubai as the city caters for an influx of less affluent tourists. Among the most recent projects is the Ibis Styles hotel in Jumeirah, Dubai designed by Drawlink Group.
“As the Dubai Expo 2020 approaches, I feel there will be a much greater demand for hotels which can accommodate travellers on a budget. The event is aimed at people who want to experience the world and all the cultures which are on offer,” explains Daousser Chennoufi, architect and CEO of Drawlink Group, who did both the exterior design and the interiors of the seven storey building.
Originally an office before its extensive retrofit, the Ibis Styles is a budget hotel and reflects a move away from the high-end with which Dubai is usually associated.
“The challenge was how to create affordable accommodation but maintain a convivial space with all the comforts that guests would need within an agreed budget,” says Chennoufi.
“During the last 10 years a lot of concepts regarding luxury five-star hotels have been explored, but I feel the trend now is towards three and four stars.
“Visitors to the Expo 2020 – they may be students for example – will not have the funds to stay at top range hotels so they need to be provided for. Also, Dubai is well known for hosting exhibitions at places like the World Trade Centre, which is close by.
“If companies only have high-end accommodation on offer they may only send one person. But if the prices are lower they may send three or four. This can really benefit the economy of the city as well as letting more people see what is taking place in their area of business.
“Then there is the economic factor. There is no doubt we are experiencing a slowdown, so people are just more careful with their money.”
However within the project, designers also had to make sure that the guests’ experience would always be a pleasant one, providing comfortable and airy rooms, with smart and sophisticated décor and large-scale windows to offer views across the city.
Upon entering the hotel, guests are greeted by an open-plan lobby, which merges with a café offering drinks and light snacks. Designers have chosen neutral colour schemes for both furniture, which is chic, yet simple, and walls, adding a vibrant greenery to the rooms.
Visitors to the hotel can take a walk through the history of the architecture of Dubai without leaving its winding corridors. Each of the doors to its 191 rooms has a massive black and white print of a building or an urban landscape – with the emphasis being on the older area around The Creek and Deira – both close to the hotel’s location.
The corridors themselves are painted black with the illumination focusing on the doors in order to bring the black and white photographs into sharp focus.
Chenouffi says: “I wanted to create the idea that guests were walking through a photographic gallery. I sourced the prints from all across the city and they show various stages of Dubai’s development and the emergence of its high-rise skyline.”
The images show some of the traditional buildings which have been preserved in the Bastakiya area of the city alongside the waterfront.
Others show the World Trade Centre, one of the city’s first skyscrapers built in 1978. To bring the story up-to-date hotels such as The Address Downtown and the residential complexes which make up The Marina are also depicted.
“The photographs were originally in colour,” says Chennoufi. “But I changed them to black and white in order to create a timeless feel and add to the ambience of the whole interior. There is the old part of the city and the new part – both are on display but the themed look is the same.
“I wanted visitors not to be able to distinguish the old from the new – so they go out of the hotel and discover the buildings for themselves. But first, they will have seen images of much of the old town, within a contemporary and modern space.”
He adds he was mindful of upholding Dubai’s reputation for quality hospitality – even while working to a budget.
“That is where the prints came in,” he says. “They were simply a cheaper option for doors than others we explored. And they have the added value of offering something cultural and unusual.
“Other places in the world see hotels with a three-star rating as pretty basic – it can be just a room. But here we have a pool, a gym and a café with two restaurants yet to open. Dubai has given the three-star hotel an upgrade.”