Managing director Sebastien Mariette has been at the helm of the Emerald Palace Kempinski Dubai and Kempinski Hotel & Residences Palm Jumeirah for (at the time of writing) just 10 months.

In his business plan for the Emerald Palace Kempinski hotel, he calculated that the number of 5-star hotel rooms to open in Palm Jumeirah in 2019 alone is 3,922, readily admitting that competition in the region is strong.

Hotelier Middle East’s pipeline report (January 2019) highlighted that 2019 is expected to remain a “challenging environment for hoteliers for the most part in the MENA”. Data from STR Global points to an expected additional 58,000 keys this year in the GCC, with Dubai facing the highest supply increase.

With such findings, it is not difficult to see why the term “market saturation" is being banded around by some of Dubai’s hoteliers. However, the increasing number of hotel keys and less than favourable forecast (not to mention the ‘down talking’ of the market), has failed to dampen Mariette’s positivity towards the recently opened Emerald Palace Kempinski Dubai and its future performance.

“What we have opened is something completely different; there are not too many palaces like this one in Dubai,” he says. “Even with a lot of supply I’m confident we will get our market share because people will look for such a product.”

Built at a cost of US $700,000,000 million, the 391-room Emerald Palace Kempinski Dubai makes no apologies for its grandness. Reminiscent of Peterhof Palace (Peter's Court), a series of palaces and gardens located in Russia’s Saint Petersburg, commissioned by Peter the Great, the Emerald Palace Kempinski Dubai has also taken its cue from France’s Louis XIV era.

Like Peter the Great, the target market of the Emerald Palace is Russian and countries within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), consisting of ten former Soviet Republics: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia itself, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Mariette also points to the local market. “It’s very important,” he says. “We look to the GCC– the Saudis, the Emiratis. It’s a wealthy target.”

Sat in the property’s Blüthner Hall, where a ‘Taste of Europe High Tea’ and a ‘British High Tea’ is served, Mariette seems at home among the Baroque furniture and the hand-made Blüthner Supréme Edition Louis XIV grand piano. “I think in a market as competitive as Dubai you have to come up with something different.”

The Emerald Palace Kempinski Dubai had its soft launch on November 29, 2018, launching its official opening event on January 16 this year.  The official launch, according to Mariette, was to say that the 391 room-Emerald Palace Kempinski is finally open. “It’s about creating awareness.  We have to tell  [customers] we are open. Please come see us.”

Mariette admits the delivery of the hotel was around three years overdue. “The owner is a perfectionist. Even a month before the official opening, tiles were replaced, to meet the owner’s standards. He likes to take his time,” said Mariette.

The 100,000-m2 property is located adjacent to the already established Kempinski Hotel Residences, which opened in September 2011, and which follows a typical residency model. “Some people own a unit and live there; other owners live abroad and use the residence two to three months a year, and some people just book for a night or two a year,” he says. “They have been open years; we have rapid business, with the holiday periods full, and people booking from one year to the next.”

When pressed on whether the success of the Kempinski Residencies was used as a gauge to help in planning the launch of the Kempinski Palace, Mariette replied: “No!” The hotel property and Residencies are positioned and sold as two different identities. “The residences an amazing product; they are not as luxurious and extravagance as the Emerald Palace hotel.”

According to Mariette, the long-term objective of Nver Mkhitaryan – the owner of the Emerald Palace Group Limited (EPG) that includes the Emerald Palace Kempinski Hotel, and Kempinski Residences & Hotel Apartments – is to upgrade the residence to the same standard of the Emerald Palace from a design, architecture and furnishing point of view. “This will take time,” he says.

Opened for a little more than two months, occupancy is still quite low at the Emerald Palace, which Mariette says is expected. “It’s very good on average daily rates (ADR),” he says. “But that is easy as you can have a very good ADR on 1% occupancy. Today we have a good ADR and occupancy is climbing.”

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