Dubai Hotels: Effective Refurbishment

Donal O'Leary
Refurbishment projects are on the increase as the Dubai Expo 2020 fast approaches.

Dubai's hotel stock currently comprises about 87,000 rooms and has just hit record guest numbers of more than 11 million in 2013, according to Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM). With the UAE's successful bid to host Expo 2020 in Dubai, the region's infrastructure is under scrutiny. An increase in hotel capacity is needed to meet DTCM’s target of attracting 20 million visitors in 2020, and new builds are under way throughout the Emirates.

The region has long been positioned as a luxury destination for both tourism (end destination and stopover) and business markets, with a high proportion of five-star properties instead of the three to five-star spread typically found elsewhere. However, there is now impetus to build more three and four-star capacity as the market broadens and matures.

An increase in hotel capacity is needed to meet DTCM’s target of attracting 20 million visitors in 2020...

Owners of existing hotel stock are under pressure to compete with the new and upcoming provision. Some hotels are now more than 15 years old and renovation and refurbishment are needed to optimise value, maintain a competitive market position, reflect brand development or modernise the facility. Newer hotels completed during more challenging economic times may also be candidates for renovation, due to lower quality construction and accelerated maintenance issues. As Dubai’s hotels generally run at 90 per cent year-round occupancy, the lifespan of bedrooms, bathrooms, food and beverage facilities and public areas is typically shortened. Building envelopes and facades suffer from the aggressively humid environment, again bringing maintenance forward.

This new renovation market is fuelling activity in the hospitality sector and posing challenges for consultants and contractors as they seek to meet clients' design, construction and operational requirements during refurbishment. Client stakeholder groups may be complex, with 90 per cent of properties locally owned but usually operated by international hotel brands. The high occupancy rates bring scheduling challenges as operators are understandably reluctant to decommission rooms and lose revenue.

Faithful+Gould leads many complex hotel refurbishment projects, developing specific project management solutions in response to our clients' challenges.

There is no substantial off-peak season, so the refurbishment usually has to be managed in phases within a live hotel environment. Faithful+Gould leads many complex hotel refurbishment projects, developing specific project management solutions in response to our clients' challenges. It's essential to explore the options with both operator and owner to reach a collaborative decision on the best way forward. We can add significant value to this scoping process as we understand the potentially conflicting goals and sensitivities, and can help resolve these before the project is launched.

Minimal operational disruption is a top priority and we engage fully with stakeholder expectations and the guest experience when considering planning and logistics scheduling. We manage the operations/works interface that ensures construction activities are contained within defined boundaries. We conduct a feasibility exercise that uses modelling strategies to plan productivity rates for the room refurbishments. Typically, we explore the length of time that rooms will be offline, together with plans for progressive room handover.

Minimal operational disruption is a top priority and we engage fully with stakeholder expectations and the guest experience when considering planning and logistics scheduling.

We need to consider the segregation between guests and the often sizeable construction workforce needed for fast refurbishment. Buffer floors may be advisable to reduce noise and disturbance, together with careful guest routing. Movement of workforce and materials on to and around the site, together with construction waste management, also needs to be planned. Our global and local relationships with specialist contractors enable us to direct an efficient procurement strategy, working with good quality teams in a pressured market. Faithful+Gould has a strong global hospitality portfolio in the Middle East, US, Asia Pacific and Europe.

We are leading 13 hospitality projects in the UAE, including Kempinski Mall of the Emirates Hotel, the Four Seasons Hotel on Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi and the new Fairmont Hotel and apartments, also in Abu Dhabi, as well as seven new hotels in Al Jadaf, Dubai. Further afield, we are adding value to approximately 5,000 room refurbishments in Singapore and Hong Kong. Our other hotel clients include Marriott, Wyndham, Crown Plaza, Disney®, Ritz-Carlton, Jumeirah Group, Shangri-La Group, Hilton Hotels, Hyatt, Intercontinental Hotel Group, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Marina Bay Sands, Ascott, Carlson Hotels, FRHI Hotels & Resorts, and The Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Limited (The Peninsula Hotels).

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