Regional industry experts share their thoughts on the growth prospects of the hotel market as well as the trends currently shaping hospitality interiors across the region.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi continue to lead in hotel construction across the UAE with a combined 155 hotel projects and 47,619 rooms in the pipeline. Other emirates with hotel construction underway include Sharjah with six projects and Ras Al-Khaimah with five.
A new report by TOPHOTELPROJECTS prepared for the upcoming Hotel Show Dubai reveals that the majority of the new hotels in the UAE are expected to open in the next two years.
Paramount Hotel Dubai, Hard Rock Hotel Abu Dhabi, Citymax Hotel Ras Al Khaimah and Marriott Dubai Jumeirah are among new properties opening.
Simona Greco, director of Milan’s International Hospitality Exhibition, is assured as happened in Milan, the upcoming Expo 2020 in Dubai will additionally boost the quality of the hospitality on offer.
She says: “As indicated by Bocconi University of Milan, the overall economic impact of Milan’s Expo 2015 has been estimated as $35bn, compared to a direct governmental investment of $3.6bn, which triggered in turn private investment of some $22bn. However, financial figures are only a part of the story. What we experienced in Milan was a dramatic growth in such intangible assets as the city’s reputation, the touristic attractiveness, the quantity and quality of the hospitality and I do expect the same to happen in the Middle East.”
Martin Fryzelka, managing director of Preciosa Middle East, sees great development not only in the UAE but also in Qatar and Bahrain. The Czech lighting manufacturer has recently illuminated the Golden Bar and Al Mahara restaurant in Burj Al Arab in Dubai and is set to open a new atelier in Dubai Design District.
“In Saudi Arabia, there have been some challenges in the past, but they are always ready to overcome them. In short, KSA is a strong market that will soon rise again,” he says.
With Saudi Arabia putting a greater focus on diversification strategies, Charles Constantin, managing director of GEZE Middle East, which provides doors and windows solutions, is confident that that future projects in Saudi will positively influence a growth in the hospitality segment.
He says: “While we can anticipate high growth in business tourism within the Kingdom, tourism motivated by religious travel will continue to remain the front-runner of growth with over 50,000 hotel rooms being constructed to serve religious travel. The UAE comes in a close second with a robust investment injection that is seeing approximately 22,000 rooms and 90 hotels under planning and construction, leading up to 2020. Coming in third is Qatar with almost 6,000 rooms and 21 hotels planned to be completed by 2017.”
THE RISE OF THE MID-RANGE MARKET
Constantin sees an increase of tourists and business travellers, seeking budget-friendly travel over the full five-star luxury experience.
He continues: “Security and international quality of accommodation and service standards are key drivers determining where one would stay. These key factors reflect GEZE’s product offering and standards. We offer turnkey solutions that address these factors based on the individual requirements of a particular branded hotel.”
Steven Pratt, sales director of Interface Middle East, a global manufacturer of carpet tiles, says that the rise in smaller boutique hotels is exactly where the company sees itself.
“Mid-range properties that want a luxurious look and feel are more open to new finishes and are very open to the modular flooring concept that we offer,” says Pratt.
Ben Woods, general manager of OFIS, a company which is the exclusive dealer for Interface carpet tiles in the UAE and Qatar, says that the rapid order-delivery cycle times is one of the biggest challenges facing both manufacturers and suppliers.
“As with many interior finishing materials we find the purchasing decision often being delayed, which puts a huge strain on manufacturing lead-times,” says Woods. “Having done a lot of work to get our products specified and approved, we then have to pull out all the stops to meet sometimes unrealistic delivery deadlines.”
Short deadlines are another challenge that Preciosa encounters with projects in the Middle East.
“When we are approached by an interior designer or a final investor to develop designs for a given hotel and after that, we are told the hotel opening date, we know that the biggest challenge will always be the time,” says Fryzelka.
Dubai-based company Rame distributes and markets several fabric brands for lighting, furniture and wallpapers, as well as high-tech upholstery materials. Gina Birkhofer, general manager, comments: “The development of several new brands of hotels will be a challenge and also a concern of oversupply in the market. With the increase in competition, and to make several lucrative offers to the guests with a unique stay experience, there will be demand for refurbishment and interior products, but meeting the price without comprising the product quality will encourage piracy of branded products.”
Birkhofer also points out that the hospitality business model is characterised by high fixed costs and variable income which demand tight cost control.
“How to retain customers and attract new ones remains the challenge, as well as not to compromise on customer safety nor the buildings. The low-cost material will not always have the same qualities as a product with certifications,” she says.
York Furnishing Fabrics is also involved in specifications for hotels in the region. Known for its wide range of fabrics, the company is also an exclusive regional supplier for Sunbrella and Serge Ferrari fabrics, which are suitable for outdoor areas.
Avinash Kalwani, managing partner, says: “York wants to be accessible to designers working with the newest five-star hotels as well as the designers working on the three-star hotels.”
Goodrich Global, supplier of quality wallcoverings, has recently supplied the Paramount Hotel and the newly opened W Dubai.
“Currently, there are hospitality market demands for interior furnishings which are suitable for exclusive, upscale and luxurious hotel properties. This phenomenon has therefore caused the other segments to raise their standards to meet the growing demands. We can help them meet their specifications regarding colour, size, design, fire and green standards,” says Goodrich, adding that digital printed wallcoverings are becoming a fast-growing trend.
Josep Maria Sans Esplugas, founder of Kriska Décor, a company specialising in producing chain curtains, agrees that, despite the fact that work in this region is fast-paced, the quality requirements are still high.
“In recent years, the region has experienced a revival in architecture and interior design projects, which for a time had slowed down. And this is particularly detectable in Dubai, which is increasing its position as a tourist destination, so hospitality markets are doing well,” says Esplugas.
INTERIOR AND BUILDING AUTOMATION
Commenting on the newest hotel solutions affecting guests’ convenience, Tarek Zakaria, managing director of Greentec Automation, says that hotel Guest Room Management Systems (GRMS), have changed in the last 10 years, being influenced both by guests’ comfort and the hotels’ ambitions to implement energy efficiency in their buildings.
“Some technologies are more or less driven by trends or fashion, which the market accepted at first instance, only to realise after experiencing the cons, that these solutions are not convenient and far-fetched,” he adds. “Furthermore, studies have shown that more than 70% of hotel guests prefer intuitive automation well known and common to them and to feel the feedback of an activated function on a particular smart switch.”
Represented by Greentec Automation, German brand JUNG produces GRMS solutions for different hotel segments and has recently introduced LS Zero, a new switch range.
Building management and building automation is the fastest growing trend within the hospitality sector, according to GEZE’s Constantin.
He says: “In terms of current trends, practically all of the today’s designers are behind technology and auto-controlled systems in every phase of the design especially when it comes to hotels. Aside from automation of buildings and infrastructure, transparency regarding the aesthetic look and design is becoming somewhat of a necessity within the region; therefore the use of glass is becoming more widely utilised.”
MAKING A STATEMENT
Known for its bespoke staircases, EeStairs has been involved in many hospitality projects, including a timber staircase to the citizenM hotel in Rotterdam.
Steven Rijkaard, business development manager for the Middle East, says: “The Middle East is a fast-growing market for us, and we see a significant appreciation for the staircase as a design element. The region presents us with the opportunity to work with some of the world’s best architects, interiors professionals and construction companies to create challenging, but remarkable statement staircases. For projects where a bespoke staircase or balustrade is required, EeStairs Custom Design service enables architects and end-users to work directly with expert designers to bring their ideas to life.”
Rijkaard says that hotels that belong to large chains were particularly enthusiastic in offering something distinctive, which sets them apart from other properties within their brand.
“This means more bespoke, statement features that make particular hotels within a portfolio memorable,” says Rijkaard, adding that there is a definite demand for creating large and open public spaces.
Another rising trend is a focus on health and wellness. R Hotels has recently unveiled the latest developments of its 253-key property in Palm Jumeirah. Envisioned as the first holistic health and wellness resort in the UAE, the group is expected to sign a partnership with a renowned global brand in developing the concept and providing the services.