Everyone is talking about refurbishments nowadays — whether in hotels or restaurants — and we have seen that operators and owners are collaborating to ensure that the asset is in its best possible condition.

This edition of Hotelier Middle East also makes multiple references to the matter, from our Bulletin section to our featured interview with The Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai general manager Gerhard Hecker (page 26). Our F&B feature with Marco Torasso (page 32) talks about overhauling the concept of an all-day dining restaurant, while our cover star, Maria Tullberg, was also at the helm of an impressive refurbishment at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek.

I especially learned a lot from reading RAK Hospitality Holding CEO Yannis Anagnostakis’ comment (page 24), which outlines what owners are thinking about when it comes to investing in refurbishments, and gives an insight into the importance of an asset value.

Story continues below

So why are all these projects taking place? For one, I believe that the market in the region has matured to the point where asset lifecycles are being considered very seriously. While some hoteliers specifically in Dubai may be concerned about occupancy levels (but 70-75% average occupancy is not one, I think, to be worried about), it’s quite clear that Dubai enjoys occupancies that many cities would love to have — this means more wear-and-tear from increased use, which results in the need for an overhaul sooner rather than later.

In addition, there is a noticeable rise in supply in the market, not to mention competition from the mid-market products. This competition definitely puts pressure on existing hotels to ensure that their product offers high quality in all aspects. If a property is in line with global trends and benchmarks when it comes to things such as interiors and technology, it is natural that repeat bookings will be the order of the day. For example, a lot of the elements of a refurbishment that hoteliers and designers mention include: a change in the interior design, an upgrade in IT, including in-room tech and check-in procedures, and F&B concepts.

Timing is also very important. Earlier, it could be argued that the summer in the Middle East is the best time to carry out a revamp. It still is, in my opinion, but with tourism authorities making a successful and concerted push to have a consistent stream of tourists all year round, one can equally say that it’s always a busy time!

So the implementation of phased revamps and clever engineering allow for operations to continue, and business to be generated.

Certainly, the refurb projects that the Hotelier team has seen over the last year has involved keeping the operations going.

To further this point, earlier this year, I read more about the refurbishment work in the Hilton Makkah through a press statement released by The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia. Ismail AlKamal, director at Saudi-based developer AlKamal International revealed that the team carried out refurbishment activities in two new restaurants and three 30-storey elevators while the hotel was at 100% occupancy. “None of the guests or the hotel staff were aware that our team was at work,” said AlKamal, in that statement.

I must also point out that while compiling the Hotelier Middle East GM Survey responses in October this year, when asked what their biggest opportunity in the next year is, a few general managers said it was exactly this: renovation. One GM said s/he looked forward to capitalising on the positive impact of hotel refurbishment, while another said renovated rooms and leisure facilities would be a great opportunity to attract more guests into his/her property.

Tying the improved and updated facilities in this region to STR’s forecast that UAE hotel demand will outpace supply by 2020 means that we’re in for happy days ahead.

With that, allow me to wish you a very Happy New Year in advance. See you in 2017!