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Top 10 hospitality stories in the Middle East so far in 2018


Sarakshi Rai, June 26th, 2018

It's been a busy summer so far for both the regional and international hospitality market in 2018. 

We bring you a round up of the top ten biggest stories that shook the hotel industry both in the Middle East and in international markets. 

1. JW Marriott Marquis Dubai terminates Chef Atul Kochhar's contract after tweet

JW Marriott Marquis in Dubai has terminated Chef Atul Kochhar's contract at the hotel after his tweet that has outraged and offended many people. Atul Kochhar, who heads Rang Mahal recently came under fire for his tweet showing negative sentiments towards Islam in response to Bollywood actor Priyanka Chopra. 

In an emailed statement, JW Marriott Marquis general manager Bill Keffer told HotelierMiddleEast.com that “Following the recent comments made by Chef Atul Kochhar, we have taken the decision to end our agreement with him for Rang Mahal. With the termination of our agreement, Chef Atul will no longer be associated with the restaurant.”

He has since apologised and called the decision 'upsetting'

2. Viceroy out, Marriott in: Abu Dhabi property set to become a W Hotel

Effective July 1, 2018, Marriott International will assume operations of the Yas Island hotel, which will go through a refurbishment period before opening under W Hotels. This will mark the debut of the brand in Abu Dhabi; it already has one operational in Dubai, with a second due to open this year.

Areas across the hotel will be refreshed and redesigned as per W Hotels’ brand standards, with an upgrade to its lobby and pool facilities, whilst remaining open to guests. 

Exactly one year ago, the Viceroy on Dubai's Palm Jumeirah was taken over by its owners Five Holdings. Since then, the dispute between the operator and Five Holdings has continued, and Five Holdings has also taken over operations of the under-construction Jumeirah Village property which had previously been signed with Viceroy as an operator. 

3. Saudi Arabia is now open for business

Saudi Arabia’s recent revelation took the world by storm: Saudi tourism visas will likely be issued in April 2018, and regulations have already been sent to the government for approval. The opening of the borders that started with the Red Sea Tourism announcement in 2017 is now seen by the world as an attempt by the Kingdom to diversify its economy by attracting millions of tourists. The newly relaxed rules are a significant change for a country that has, in the past, avoided opening up to non-religious tourism.

 

4. Dubai-based businessman buys NYC's Plaza Hotel for $600 million

A UAE businessman has bought the Plaza hotel in New York for US $600 million, according to media reports. New York's Plaza Hotel was previously owned by Indian company Sahara.

However, since then, Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp and Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding, the minority investors trying to buy New York’s historic Plaza Hotel, have sued the property’s majority owner Sahara for allegedly reneging on an agreement that gives the group the right to match another offer, according to reports.

5. Emerald Palace Kempinski to open on Dubai's Palm Jumeirah this year

Kempinski Hotels will open its newest hotel in Dubai very soon. The operator is yet to announce its opening date.

Emerald Palace Kempinski Dubai will have 389 rooms and suites, eight restaurants and bars, 3,000sqm Cinq Mondes Spa, state-of-the-art fitness centre and yoga studio, 500m private white sand beach and 80-seat private cinema.

6. AccorHotels to buy Movenpick Hotels & Resorts for US $566m

Mövenpick Holding revealed that it has agreed, together with its partner Kingdom Holding, to sell Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts to AccorHotels, who is set to pay CHF 560 million (US $566m) to buy Mövenpick and the transaction is set to be completed by second half of 2018, according to a statement by Mövenpick. Through the integration, the company will have access to Accor’s customer loyalty program, benefits from new sales channels and will be able to increase the operational performance of its managed properties, the statement added.

8. A.A.Al Moosa says three Palm Jumeirah hotels to open by Q1 2019 in Dubai

A.A. Al Moosa Enterprises has confirmed its three hotel projects - Hilton The Palm, Taj Exotica Resort & Spa and Marriott The Palm – have a target opening date of first quarter of 2019. The properties, located on the Palm Jumeirah, will add 1,500 rooms and suites to the current inventory of hotel rooms in Dubai, according to a statement. Combined, the three hotels will offer 25 dining outlets.

9. Marriott to expand MEA portfolio by 50% in next five years

Marriott International revealed its plans to expand its presence in the Middle East and Africa region by 50% within the next five years as the company continues its diversification and growth strategy in the region. This would increase Marriott’s MEA portfolio to nearly 370 hotels. In the last 12 months alone, the hotel company signed more than 30 properties to its portfolio and added more than 5,000 rooms in the region—which the company estimates will attract an investment of up to USD $1.8 billion. 

Marriot International expects that by 2022 it will have nearly doubled the size of its operations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as domestic and international tourism in the country continue to grow.

10. ME by Melia Dubai to open in Q4 2018

ME by Meliá's first property in the United Arab Emirates, ME by Meliá Dubai, is set to open in the fourth quarter of 2018. Designed by the late architect Dame Zaha Hadid in partnership with luxury developer Omniyat, ME Dubai will be part of the 95-metre high Opus building in the Burj Khalifa district in Downtown Dubai.