Fairmont hotel in Abu Dhabi back to drawing board


By Rebecca Bundhun  www.thenational.ae

Fairmont’s long-delayed second luxury hotel in Abu Dhabi has been pushed back further after designers went back to the drawing board to keep up with development in the capital.

Fairmont hotel in Abu DhabiThe company opened its Fairmont Bab Al Bahr hotel more than 18 months ago. But another Fairmont property, to be built on a breakwater overlooking the Corniche, was announced in 2004.

“The second hotel in Abu Dhabi has been going on, it seems, forever,” said Chris Cahill, the president of Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. “As Abu Dhabi has continued to evolve and change, we’re on our third different design for the building. What we would have done six or seven years ago and what you’d do today is very different. The design, I think, is just about complete.”

A year ago, Fairmont said the project had been “dormant” because of the financial crisis. But at that time its developer was about to start construction work on the hotel.

“They did start to do some things, then it got stalled again for redesign changes, so now we’re back 10 months later and I think we’re pretty close to being able to outline the completion schedule,” said Mr Cahill. Several luxury hotels are scheduled to open this year in the capital, including: the Jumeirah Group’s first hotel in Abu Dhabi, the Jumeirah Etihad Towers; a Sofitel property; and a Dh1 billion (US$272.2 million) Park Hyatt resort on Saadiyat Island.

Fairmont also has a Fujairah project that has been delayed and scaled down substantially.

And the Fairmont hotel on the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai has been severely delayed but is expected to be completed by next summer.

The project’s Kuwaiti developer, IFA Hotels and Resorts, last December announced it had received $115m of financing from Standard Chartered to complete the hotel.

“It’s coming along quite nicely,” said Mr Cahill. “It was in a bit of a hiatus for a period, but it’s back now and they’re working very aggressively to get it ready.”

Fairmont had tied up with IFA Hotels and Resorts to manage another property the developer was building on the Palm Jumeirah.

“There was a project we announced on the Palm, on The Crescent, called Kingdom of Sheba, and that one still has not been restarted,” said Mr Cahill. He said the parent company, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, had plans to expand its three brands, which also include Raffles and Swissotel, in the region.

“The Middle East is a very active place for us right now,” Mr Cahill said. “We signed the Fairmont in Riyadh a couple of months ago. Our properties in Mecca are in their start-up phase.

“Then we have a couple of projects here in the UAE that we’ll probably be announcing shortly and a couple of projects in Saudi which have not yet been announced.”

The company is in the early stages of talks to open a Raffles hotel in Abu Dhabi.

“[And] we think there would be a good opportunity for Swissotel in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai,” Mr Cahill said.