New opening: Damac Maison, Dubai Mall Street

Hotelier finds out how the property will drive returns for its owners

The use of marble in the penthouse suite highlights the focus on luxury.
The use of marble in the penthouse suite highlights the focus on luxury.
The apartments are cool and modern, with comfortable furnishings adding softness.
The apartments are cool and modern, with comfortable furnishings adding softness.
White dominates the design of the luxury apartments, but with splashes of colour to add a more homely feel.
White dominates the design of the luxury apartments, but with splashes of colour to add a more homely feel.

Damac Properties has opened Damac Maison, Dubai Mall Street, its first luxury hotel apartment property, featuring new spa brand Chrysalis and restaurant Maison Café.

The property is fully sold, with half of the apartments in a rental pool run by Damac Maison. Hotelier takes a tour to find out how the company plans to drive returns for its owners

Following fast in the footsteps of Dubai developers that have rolled out hospitality businesses and at the same time, capitalising on the demand in Dubai for high-end hotel apartments, is Damac Maison — the hotel services arm of Damac Properties, a residential, leisure and commercial developer in Dubai and the Middle East established in 2002.

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The hospitality arm was launched in October 2011 and on December 30, the debut property opened — Damac Maison, Dubai Mall Street, the first of 7351 serviced hotel apartments Damac Properties is developing in Dubai.

This year alone, three more serviced apartment projects will open in close proximity, all with the enviable address of being in the heart of Downtown Dubai, near Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall, Souk Al Bahar and DIFC, and all in the luxury segment.

The luxury focus is at the core of the Damac Maison brand, with Damac Properties managing director Ziad El Chaar asserting that “we want to create a home away from home where our guests can relax and enjoy the service expected in a five-star hotel within the comforts of a serviced apartment”.

The brand model is also somewhat different from the branded hotel apartments already operating here.

Every apartment at Damac Maison, Dubai Mall Street is sold, with owners opting to either live in, place the apartment in a long-term 12-month rental or hand it to Damac Maison to operate within a rental pool for a short period, enabling the owner to still use the apartment during periods they are in the city.

It’s a flexible arrangement, aimed at offering investors an attractive return. As of mid-February, almost 50% of the units at the property had been entered into the pool — “an encouraging percentage”, according to Damac Holding Co. LLC vice president corporate communications Raed Gerges.

As the debut property for the group, it is to be expected that Damac Maison, Dubai Mall Street encompasses the full range of luxury facilities, from the Chrysalis Spa, featuring high-tech equipment not seen elsewhere in Dubai, to Maison Café, a restaurant on the ground floor that also retails a selection of high-end grocery items.

There’s a kids club and babysitting services, valet parking, and both 24-hour concierge and room service, know as “in-home dining”.

According to Damac Hotels senior vice president Shaun Langdon, who has 20 years experience as a hotelier in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Malaysia, India and the UAE, these facilities are united by Damac Maison’s aim to “excel with personalised services”.

“We’ve also looked at a couple of key things, that are the differentiators our clientele want — one is concierge services. When you think about staying in an apartment you want access to the city.

Our positioning is the key to your apartment is the key to your city, and so we’ve really looked at how do we train our concierge, how do we provide those services? If they want a private yacht — in this part of the world you get these interesting requests — we can deliver that, so we’ve gone out and hired fantastic staff,” says Langdon.

“Then we’ve looked at other services –Chrysalis Spa is based on the evolution of a butterfly. That’s about relaxing; a lot of our guests are leisure guests, so how do we manage in that environment?”

F&B is also important and something Langdon is passionate about, having previously held the position of regional director, food and beverage for Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, IHG, where he was responsible for 45 hotels.

“We want it to be about comfort, about fresh great quality ... it’s about simplicity. The experience is all about home, even room service is in-home dining. We’re being very thoughtful about how we position it and who our clientele are,” says Langdon, adding that as the apartments have full kitchens, plans are also in place to bring in chefs to cook for guests privately.

Establishing a new hospitality brand in a crowded market, with rapid roll out planned, relies heavily on a strong team and Langdon says he had specific requirements when recruiting, drawing heavily on his own experience as regional general manager & director of projects for South West Asia for IHG, where he was based in India and responsible for all operating and pre-opening hotels, including the launch of the region’s first Holiday Inn Express.

“We’ve gone out and looked at getting industry professionals that come from hotels but also have a background in emerging markets like I did, that understand how to open and understand also the development cycle.

If you’ve just worked in a hotel in the front end and not had much experience of the development cycle or preopening, it’s challenging,” he says.

There are now more than 300 employees at Damac Maison, with the team gearing up to open new properties, referred to as Upper Crest and Distinction, and visible from the penthouse terrace of the Dubai Mall Street hotel — which also offers rare unobstructed views of the Burj Khalifa.

The dual focus now is opening on time and with the level of service the brand’s reputation
will rely on.

“Our priority is building a sustainable platform of successful projects on time, on budget and for us it’s all about service delivery,” says Langdon.

“Our model is about how do we sell real estate and then how do we add value to our owners and customers that want to buy more real estate and also see that we can deliver this outstanding level of good service. Our model is about delivering to the owner returns, and we only take a very small percentage of the management fee. Compared to some other [operators], we’re very competitive and it’s about delivering value,” he asserts.

ABOUT DAMAC MAISON

Mission: To take a leadership role at the luxury end of the serviced apartment market segment in Dubai.

Model: Apartments are sold, with owners either opting to live in the apartment or enter it to a rental pool.

Facilities: Hotel-style lobby, spa, high-end restaurants. At Damac Maison, Dubai Mall Street there is a gymnasium, sauna, swimming pool, and beauty salon.

Services: Valet service, babysitting, 24-hour concierge, 24-hour room service.

Apartments at Damac Maison, Dubai Mall Street: One-bedroom apartments span 77-88m² and three-bedroom apartments are spread across 140m². All apartments have full fitted kitchens, stylish crockery and cutlery, and modern appliances. There are also two penthouse apartments.
Pipeline: 7351 apartment units to be completed by 2017 in Dubai.

Other projects: Damac Properties is also developing luxury serviced hotel apartments in Damac Exclusiva in Riyadh and private apartments in Damac Residenze in Dubai Marina, both with interior designs by Fendi.

The company is also developing the US $1bn Damac Towers by Paramount in the Burj Khalifa area of Dubai, featuring the first Paramount Hotel & Residences in the region, and Damac Maison apartments.

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