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Abu Dhabi

Radisson Blu opens two hotels in Abu Dhabi

800 450 Hamish Kilburn

Radisson Blu has announced the opening of two hotels in Abu Dhabi…

Two new Radisson Blu-branded landmark hotels have arrived in Abu Dhabi, one of which is located on the vibrant and iconic sea walk of Abu Dhabi, while the other is situated in one of the UAE’s cultural gems, known as the Garden City for its natural springs, plantations and lush palm groves.

“We’re delighted to begin 2019 in such a positive manner with the opening of these amazing properties in the UAE, arriving under the upper upscale Radisson Blu flag,” said Tim Cordon, Area Senior Vice President, Middle East and Africa, Radisson Hotel Group. “Both properties remain iconic landmarks in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, offering guests the opportunity to enjoy such unique locations. Abu Dhabi continues to flourish as a destination, with significant investment going into demand generators for the tourism sector – from cultural landmarks to entertainment and leisure offerings. We’re proud to be playing a supporting role in this evolution.”

Khalid Anib, Chief Executive Officer, Abu Dhabi National Hotels, said: “We’re pleased to lead our hotels into their next generation under the globally recognized Radisson Blu brand. Both hotels are undergoing extensive renovation works that will see them reach leading standards. Each hotel has its own distinct and attractive offering for both business and leisure segments. We’re confident that our guests will enjoy many memorable moments at our hotels, whilst discovering all that Abu Dhabi and Al Ain has to offer.”

Radisson Blu Hotel & Resort, Abu Dhabi Corniche

Image credit: Radisson Blu

Offering stunning views of Abu Dhabi’s coastline, the Radisson Blu Hotel & Resort, Abu Dhabi Corniche is ideally located for travellers looking to enjoy the hotel’s extensive leisure facilities and private beach or explore the city centre attractions.

Stepping inside, the hotel also has everything guests need to enjoy memorable moments. As well as 327 spacious rooms and suites, the Radisson Blu Hotel & Resort Abu Dhabi Corniche brings together culinary excellence and entertainment. The nine restaurants provide an ample choice of international cuisines for breakfast, lunch or dinner, while the three swimming pools, spa, fitness centre and the beach club offer plenty of opportunities for relaxation. The meeting and events space can host events for 10 to 2,000 guests, with 14 meeting rooms, two ballrooms and outdoor facilities that include a private beach club for special events.

Radisson Blu Hotel & Resort Al Ain

Image credit: Radisson Blu

Set in the UAE’s remarkable Garden City, the Radisson Blu Hotel & Resort Al Ain gives guests the opportunity to enjoy an authentic UAE experience away from the urban buzz of the main cities. The hotel is located in one of Al Ain’s stunning historic properties and offers easy access to a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Well-equipped for guests looking to relax or explore, the hotel features 210 rooms including a range of suites, villas and studios – as well as six restaurants and four bars. It also has a fantastic selection of leisure facilities, including swimming pools, tennis courts, a sauna and steam room. In addition to this 1,070sqm of event space (including four versatile meeting rooms and the Oasis Ballroom) provides a unique setting for events – especially the ballroom that can host 650 guests or the garden area that’s ideal for social gatherings.

Main image credit: Radisson Blu

Rixos Hotels opens first hotel in Abu Dhabi

Hamish Kilburn
The hotel group opens a 378-key luxury hotel in Abu Dhabi, the brand’s fourth hotel in UAE…

Turkish-grown hospitality brand Rixos Hotels has opened its first resort in Abu Dhabi. Rixos Saadiyat Island prides itself on offering ‘pure luxury’ in an opulent setting, inspired by the palaces of the Ottoman Empire, with dazzling interiors reflecting gemstone shades of green, blue and turquoise throughout. Situated on Saadiyat Island, the resort is expected to become the most successful, fully integrated resort in the Emirates.

“We are thrilled to be expanding Rixos Hotels into Abu Dhabi, showcasing our first all-inclusive, all-exclusive resort in the capital,” said Fettah Tamince, Founder and Chairman of Rixos Hotels. We hope to show visitors from around the world how to create a fully integrated resort that delivers ultra-luxury, innovation in cuisine and the highest standards of service. We are extremely proud of our new resort and of the team, we can’t wait to mark a new chapter in our expansion and welcome guests to Rixos Saadiyat Island.”

Image caption: Rixos Saadiyat Island Abu Dhabi

Image caption: Rixos Saadiyat Island Abu Dhabi

With panoramic views overlooking a sprawling private beach and across the Arabian Gulf, the 378-key resort comprises of 366 rooms and suites, plus 12 three and four-bedroom villas, each boasting either shared or private pools, direct access to the beach and the dedicated services of a butler. Conveniently located less than 30 minutes away from all of Abu Dhabi’s most thrilling attractions, guests can indulge in the feeling of hiding away in an exclusive island enclave while still benefiting from proximity to city highlights including the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, and Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Rixos Saadiyat Island boasts a water park complete with wave pool for all ages and a children’s Aqua Park to keep the little ones happy. Nestled away within the resort’s verdant gardens, Rixos Saadiyat’s Spa is inspired by the age-old wellness customs of Turkey. The dramatic design reflects traditional Ottoman architecture to create a truly luxurious indoor and outdoor sanctuary where guests enjoy complimentary use of the facilities, which includes a steam room, sauna, a private outdoor pool, and an ice room. A collection of luxury treatment rooms and a traditional Turkish Hammam await those who wish to book a pampering spa treatment, with expert therapists on hand to restore balance for mind, body and soul.

Following the opening of Rixos Saadiyat Island, Rixos Hotels will operate four hotels in the United Arab Emirates –Rixos Premium Dubai, Rixos The Palm Dubai, Rixos Bab Al Bahr and Rixos Saadiyat Island.

Duravit at the Louvre Abu Dhabi

Project Spotlight: Duravit at Louvre Abu Dhabi

1000 666 Daniel Fountain

Jean Nouvel has created an architectural wonder in the desert. It includes products by Duravit, designed by Philippe Starck.

A commission that was unusual even for the French star architect and Pritzker prize winner Jean Nouvel – the creation of the first all-purpose museum in the Arab world – and the first in the twenty-first century, a building that is intended to stand as a symbol for Abu Dhabi.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi was officially opened on 11 November 2017. The spectacular building on Saadiyat Island will show 300 objects on loan from thirteen leading museums in France. However, the greatest attraction is the building itself.

Duravit at Louvre Abu DhabiBetween modernity and tradition
The architecture is modern but timeless, incorporating elements from Abu Dhabi’s architectural tradition. Jean Nouvel took inspiration from an Arab medina (old town) to create a building whose domed metal roof weighs as much as the Eiffel Tower in Paris but is supported by just four columns – a technical feat that is also an aesthetic experience.

A total of fifty-five different buildings form a museum city on the island in the Gulf, covered by a huge steel roof with a diameter of 180 metres.

Passages and corridors wind their way through this cool white labyrinth, with steps up to the flat roofs of some of the building blocks to enable visitors to see the spectacular domed roof from close up. This unique design consists of almost 8,000 stars of different sizes and angles, superimposed in seven layers.

Like a roof made of overlapping palm leaves, this structure provides shade and protection from the hot desert sun. The effect is breathtaking: “It produces a poetic, almost magical rain of light,” says architect Jean Nouvel. At night the effect is reversed when the internally lit building shines like a miniature night sky.

In the white bathrooms the works of another French architect and designer are on show: Starck 1 toilets by Philippe Starck.
Copyright: © Danica O. Kus

Nouvel, Starck and Picasso
In the white bathrooms the works of another French architect and designer are on show: toilets by Philippe Starck, designed for Duravit. Starck was also inspired by tradition in his design of the toilet. The Starck 1 toilet recalls its historical predecessor, a bucket – interpreted in a completely new way, of course.

Jean Nouvel’s building occupies a site of almost 100,000 square metres, with 8,600 square metres of exhibition space, including 6,400 for the permanent exhibition and 2,000 for temporary exhibitions. The first exhibition will feature Leonardo da Vinci’s “La Belle Ferronnière”, a self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh and works by Pablo Picasso.

Images: ©Danica O. Kus

Paramount Hotel - one project in the pipeline for UAE hotel industry

UAE hotel industry to open 54,000 new rooms

700 450 Daniel Fountain

A new report has revealed that there are 183 hotel projects and 54,000 hotel rooms in the UAE hotel industry pipeline.

The hotel construction report by TopHotelProjects, exclusively written for Hotel Show Dubai 2016, says the majority of the new hotels are expected to open before 2020 and the busiest years are forecast to be 2017 (56 project openings) and 2018 (58 project openings).

Hotels opening in this time include the Paramount Hotel Dubai (2017); Hard Rock Hotel Abu Dhabi (2017); Citymax Hotel Ras Al Khaimah (2017); and Marriott Dubai Jumeirah (2018).

Dubai and Abu Dhabi continue to lead in hotel construction across the UAE with a combined 155 hotel projects and 47,619 rooms in the pipeline. Other emirates with hotel construction underway include: Sharjah with six projects (959 rooms) and Ras Al-Khaimah with five projects (1,847 rooms).

Thomas van Vliet, CEO of Paramount Hotels & Resorts, said: “Paramount Hotel Dubai, expected to open by the end of 2017, will be the first ever Paramount Hotels & Resorts property as well as the operator’s UAE flagship hotel.

“The hotel, part of a mixed use complex also housing 1,197 serviced residences, offers a luxurious experience with a Californian edge and Hollywood vibe, housing 823 guest rooms and suites, some of which are themed after Paramount Pictures movies. We have three more projects underway in Dubai, with a total of 1,383 keys,” he added.

Anantara Eastern Mangroves Spa & Hotel, Abu Dhabi

Anantara Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa, Abu Dhabi

700 463 Daniel Fountain

When I first moved to the UAE back in mid-2011, I had come to the conclusion after several previous holidays that Dubai was the centre of it all as far as the country was concerned. I knew Abu Dhabi was the nation’s capital, but I viewed it much like I do American state capitals — smaller and less important than some of the bigger metropoles like Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.

So, it was little wonder it took me more than 6 months to venture the hour-and-a-half on the Sheikh Zayed Road highway through the desert to visit the ‘little cousin’ of the emirate I then called home. Of course, in wealth terms, Abu Dhabi is very much the ‘Granddaddy’ of the UAE; its investment fund surpasses the other emirates’ combined.

But in tourism terms, Dubai has been forging a very successful path for several decades now, which had left Abu Dhabi considerably further behind. And on my first visit to the capital, I didn’t see anything that would change my perception. But by 2013, when I went to stay at the Anantara Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa for the first time, the landscape had changed considerably.

By then, Abu Dhabi’s rulers were pumping money into all sorts of projects — most famously Ferrari World and the city’s Grand Prix – in a bid to catch up with Dubai. On the whole, they’re doing well. And this Anantara property — the third in the emirate — is a shining example of the ‘no-holds-barred luxury’ Abu Dhabi is now regularly attaining.

The enormous and expansive arrival lobby and reception area of this new-build property, complete with impressive, ornate bowls of the ubiquitous dates and over-attentive staff with welcome drinks, certainly set the tone for this property. Much like the rest of this hotel, there is a clever Asia-meets-Arabia balance in the interior design, mixing the Thailand-based Anantara name and Abu Dhabi’s penchant for being the more authentically Arab city compared to Dubai.

You are hit with views of the 1.2 kilometre nature reserve set among the mangroves as soon as you step into the lobby and it’s hard to avoid them wherever you go throughout the hotel. But with meandering creeks, birds and wildlife abounding and the Abu Dhabi city skyline shimmering in the distance — it’s more a question of why you would want to avoid them. One does get the feeling that the functionality of the hotel has been slightly tipped in the favour of business guests, something that comes through in the design of the 222 rooms. The two I stayed in had a somewhat business-like feel, but certainly didn’t lack for luxury or size (rooms start at 57m2). They still retain an ornate finish, with dark timbers, beautiful swirl-patterned carpets, lush upholstery in bronzes, greens and golds and intricate woodwork above and around the beds in the suites.

Anantara Eastern Mangroves Spa & Hotel, Abu Dhabi

If possible, an upgrade to one of the Kasara Mangroves suites on the ground floor is a recommended one as they are three times larger than the standard rooms and offer their own private pool area. If not, another tip would be to choose a mangrove-facing room as the alternative gives a less than savoury view of the busy Salam Street — and while triple-glazing puts paid to any noise pollution — it’s worth requesting the former for the views alone. The bathrooms, while minimalist in shape are a definition of luxury with a stunning marble finish throughout.

*On a side note, I was also informed that the Royal Mangroves Residence is the largest suite of its kind in the UAE — and so it should be at a staggering 1,320m2 with a capacity for 10 people*

The ostentatious Arabian elegance (is there any other kind?) of the hotel continues in the public areas. Walls are lined with 18-carat gold leaf and glittering mosaics, timber trellises all set against domed ceiling insets and arched windows. Outside, a centralised infinity pool offers perfect views of the surrounding natural beauty and watching the sun set behind the city skyline is a quite spectacular way to spend an evening. One flaw I will point out in the design of the pool area, however, is the expanse of the stone flooring means walking from a further lounger to the pool in the searing summer heat without suitable footwear isn’t an option.

As a destination hotel — there was very little else around the hotel when I visited — the food and beverage outlets are of a higher standard than perhaps expected in Abu Dhabi. The highlights include the very impressive Impressions rooftop terrace bar and we dined in the excellent Pachalyen signature Thai restaurant, with the almost-stereotypical bamboo cage screens, Buddha-inspired decorative items and ‘economical’ lighting.

Anantara Eastern Mangroves Spa & Hotel, Abu Dhabi

But this being a spa hotel, this is where the property shines. In terms of design and interior, this is one of the better I’ve had the pleasure of visiting — dripping in opulence, the sheer attention to detail in everything from the Turkish hammam to the individual treatment rooms is difficult to find fault with.

Anantara Eastern Mangroves Spa & Hotel, Abu Dhabi

The beautiful Turkish hammam of the spa

Anantara Eastern Mangroves Spa & Hotel, Abu Dhabi

The fantastic use of light in the spa’s salon

The occupancy numbers were low when I stayed in the off-season, so the hotel appeared empty at times, but it’s probably more due to the sheer scale of this property that I imagine it wouldn’t feel overcrowded even at full capacity. And with Abu Dhabi’s tourism trade improving and increasing year-on-year, you can expect this property to be closer to full than empty on a regular basis.

Words by Daniel Fountain. Based on visits in 2013 and 2015
www.abu-dhabi.anantara.com

Centro Al Manhal, Abu Dhabi UAE

Centro Al Manhal, Abu Dhabi UAE (Patrick Goff)

1000 666 Daniel Fountain

When I stayed at the Shangri-La in Dubai I had no doubts about what I would be looking at. The review was specifically so that I could have a look at an example of a Shangri-La hotel in advance of the Shard opening in London. The Rotana Centro Al Manhal Abu Dhabi, was, besides being quite a mouthful as a name, quite an unknown quantity, as well as an unknown quality. It fitted within my current concern about the poor standards of many hotels in the UK in comparison with what is being developed abroad. Here is a new group setting its standards for me to look at, and to see that this, a three star operation, is at a level that fully justifies my observations in my article about the challenges faced by UK hotel standards.

Many designers will say, as will many hoteliers, “so what, this is no threat to UK hotels”. This is not a belief I share. In the 1960’s we queued in UK hotels to share a bathroom, and seemingly saw nothing wrong with it. Right into the 1990’s my design practice made its bread and butter creating en-suite bathrooms in British hotels that had not previously had them. That’s right, that work continued into the mid 1990’s, as the UK hotel market sought to recover from the impact of British holidays makers preferring to go abroad rather than suffer poor hotel standards at home.

Centro Al Manhal, Abu Dhabi UAE

Now the accountants who control so much of UK hotel development and refurbishment are pushing hotels room sizes smaller, ignoring the standards that Brits experience abroad, and the experience foreign tourists have in their home markets. Once more UK hotels are falling slowly and inexorably behind their foreign counterparts, relying on the continued growth of UK tourism to fill rooms – London average occupancy rated in excess of 92% and regional rates over 70% almost guarantee the returns for investors, with little future vision required.

How long will the tourist market be sustained if UK is seen to be old fashioned and behind the times in the standard of its hotel accommodation? With 10% of the economy now relying on tourism, we need to look hard at what we are doing here, or see a hotel and tourism decline as marked as the decline of the seaside resorts of the 1960’s and 1970’s, with similar economic impact.

Centro Al Manhal, Abu Dhabi UAE

When a new 5 star can be created in London with rooms 27m2 whilst overseas counterparts go to 44m2, and the London hotels charges some of the highest global rates too, should we then expect the guests will surely eventually vote with their feet? If so then we all lose. There is nothing wrong with small rooms per se, as Citizen M and others have shown, but it depends on client profiling and for 4 and 5 star size does matter. However here it is the size of three star rooms that throws down the challenge, moulding expectations for travellers may be returning to the UK.

This three star shows how definitions are changing. For a start it has valet parking, which is apparently a legal requirement in Abu Dhabi hotels. Given that access to the car park is under the hotel via a car lift this provides an additional level of security for those arriving by car.
Rotana is a fasts growing operator with over 70 properties in 11 countries, although most properties are through the UAE. As Marriott are finding with their African portfolio of 108 Protea, hotels standard are good and the quality and size of provision, particularly at 3 star level challenges the conception of 3 star service and operation, paralleling the developments in the UK. Here in Abu Dhabi though the change is even more marked, with a large lobby, and high quality services.

Centro Al Manhal, Abu Dhabi UAE

Other facilities not usually found in European 3 star hotels include 24 food service through the hotel’s bistro, room service, a bar, a choice of dining options including a high quality restaurant operation, a roof top swimming pool, manned and with waiter service, meeting rooms and a small gym. Throughout this modern building finishes are of high quality, and the spaces, including the 229 32m2 bedrooms, are well designed, contemporary and beautifully detailed. Bedrooms include the usual mix of twins and doubles with zip-link beds used throughout to maximise flexibility. Some rooms interconnect, and there is a balance between shower only and bath rooms, giving choice to the incoming guest.

A good sized work desk is enhanced by the addition of some free WiFi, which is hi speed too. This is a focussed business hotel but it was evident that it was popular with tourists wanting to be based in central Abu Dhabi. Adjacent is the Al Wadha mall and behind is the national football stadium, so this friendly hotels also has an attraction for other than the business person.

Centro Al Manhal, Abu Dhabi UAE

A new build, as are most of Rotana’s hotels, the hotel is functionally well designed, elegant and stylish. Staff are very well trained, friendly and efficient. The groups is locally owned and financed and has had rapid expansion. Their intent is to continue to expand as a management group and they are launching a campaign to increase awareness amongst British travellers, as currently only 19% of their guests are from the UK.

From 2 properties in 1993 to over 85 by 2012 in 26 countries the group continues to expand the properties under management through its four brands. The stated intention is to achieve growth through Eastern Europe, the Mid-East and Africa. Offering design and concept planning the group sets a standard that unfortunately is well above many of their equivalents in the UK, where complacency and cost are deciding factors frequently overruling design and guest comfort as considerations.

All words and pictures © Patrick Goff. From a stay in March 2014