|By Issac John, Khaleej Times, Dubai,
United Arab EmiratesMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 27, 2012--Starwood Hotels & Resorts, owner of the luxury St. Regis and W brands, signed on Thursday an agreement with Al Habtoor Group to manage three hotels to be built by the UAE-based conglomerate in Dubai as part of a $1.33 billion project.
The three hotels will add a total of 1,675 new rooms to Dubai's fast growing hospitality sector.
Located on a one million square-foot property on Shaikh Zayed Road, the development will include the first St. Regis hotel in Dubai, a W Hotel and a new Westin. The hotels are scheduled for opening in 2017.
Al Habtoor Group plans to spend $1.33 billion of its own cash to build the Al Habtoor Palace Complex, it said in January. The project will include 12 tennis courts, a 500,000 square-foot garden, shops, restaurants and a theatre. Al Habtoor Group already operates several hotels in the UAE and Beirut.
"This landmark project underlines Starwood's commitment to continued growth in the region and further strengthens our long-established position as one of the leading hotel operators in the Middle East," said Roeland Vos, President, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Europe, Africa and Middle East.
He said Dubai has surged over the years as a top destination for international travellers.
Starwood currently operates 15 properties in Dubai, representing the second largest concentration of the company's hotels in a single city outside of New York.
Khalaf Al Habtoor, chairman of Al Habtoor Group, said he looks forward to building a new landmark in Dubai with the project. "We are excited to partner with Starwood in bringing three of their world-class brands together for this monumental project. This iconic project will offer Dubai a unique and popular destination to experience the finest hospitality with a fine range of dining and entertainment options all in the same â€¨vicinity."
Dubai's hotel sector saw improved performance throughout 2011, according to real estate consultancy firm Jones Lang LaSalle. Hotel occupancy rates are expected to hold up in 2012 despite approximately 5,800 new rooms being delivered, it said. At the end of 2011, the total hotel supply in Dubai stood at approximately 53,600 rooms and about 2500 rooms were added in 2011 in Dubai.
The hotels, overlooking the Burj Khalifa near the Dubai International Financial Centre and Business Bay areas, will feature a distinct food and beverage component, signature spas and offer spectacular views of the city's vibrant skyline. The development will also feature a destination entertainment theatre surrounded by landscaped gardens on over 500,000 square-feet of land.
The St. Regis Dubai will feature 241 luxuriously-appointed guest rooms, including 49 elegant suites.
The new W Dubai -- Shaikh Zayed Road will provide a cutting-edge lifestyle experience, comprising 384 stylish guest rooms including 88 suites, four WOW Suites and one Extreme WOW Suite (W's take on the Presidential suite).
The third hotel, the Westin Dubai -- Shaikh Zayed Road, will feature 1,050 guest rooms and 129 suites. The Westin Dubai is the third property for the brand in the UAE and joins the recently opened The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa and The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina in Dubai.
Starwood currently operates close to 50 hotels in the Middle East, which includes 23 hotels in the UAE. The company is set to open more than 30 hotels in the region over the next few years, representing a portfolio growth of more than 50 per cent. By 2015, the Middle East will become the second region, after North America, to operate all nine of Starwood's world-class brands.
(c)2012 the Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
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