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“These are unprecedented times


and they required an unprecedented response. Of course we keep a close eye on regional and international developments and travel trends, but we remain committed to the expansion strategy in the Middle East. “We are pleased to see a healthy economy in Abu Dhabi and to see both leisure and corporate hotel business continuing to grow with 70 per cent occupancy in the city, year to date. We expect this to remain similar in the forthcoming year.” Forte sees the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region as offering serious potential for his Rocco Forte Hotels group. Sir Rocco is planning to open hotels in Jeddah, Marrakech, Cairo and Luxor in the next few years. The new hotel in Abu Dhabi may


be Forte’s first venture in the Gulf but well-heeled Arab visitors to Europe


are already familiar with what he has to offer. “Although we have not yet completed our growth in Europe, opening properties in the Middle East is a natural progression for us. This is especially the case given that we are seeing so many of our current guests travel from the MENA region and our brand is increasingly well-recognised in the region.”


Although Abu Dhabi’s growing tourism


sector may be experiencing a few teething problems, with project delays and hotel room over-supply, hospitality analysts such as Chiheb Ben Mahmoud, executive VP – head of hotel advisory, Middle East for Jones Lang Lasalle, can see positive benefits. “Abu Dhabi, as a destination, might


be facing the challenge of the luxury/ upscale perception, and positioning, which would not help to place it on the general leisure travel market map. The


softening of the rates should help to make it more affordable and budget-wise more tourist friendly.” The issue for high-end hotels such as


Forte’s in the medium term, while supply is plentiful, could be whether to open up to a wider market to bolster occupancy rates and revenue or attempt to maintain a level of exclusivity. But Mahmoud believes Abu Dhabi’s


layout, comprising an array of distinctly separate locations, will help hotels and destinations to create their own niche in a competitive market place. “When it comes to location, the unique configuration of Abu Dhabi makes it rather a collection or constellation of micro destinations rather than a uniform one. The Corniche, Saadiyat Beach and Yas Island, for example, all have unique characters and could soon develop their own followings.”


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