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Hotelier of the week: Stuart Deeson

ABTN speaks to Stuart Deeson, general manager of the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas, talks about what to expect from the new property and its home Saadiyat Island.

Where is the new hotel?

We will be located on the beach front on the Saadiyat Island development, which is already quite busy. The golf course is already open, Saadiyat Beach Club,and we are intending to open later in the year. We’re working towards an October opening. I believe we will be the first hotel opening on the beach front. We’re very excited about that.

We’re about 25 minutes away from the airport. It’s an excellent location. We will get lots of different types of business. As a resort we will have a big leisure component, but also because we’re close to the city centre there is opportunity for business travellers.

What is Saadiyat Island like?

It means island of happiness. There are several different parts to the island, and we’re in the beach district, which is really the first bit to open. The island is environmentally-orientated, so as a hotel there are certain guidelines we have to follow. For example, in front of the hotel we have these beautiful sand dunes, which provide a nesting zone for turtles. We have an obligation to make sure these dunes are protected during the nesting season between May and September. We have to make sure nobody goes on there and as part of the development we are building bridges across the dunes to the main part of the beach. We also have to make sure there will be no motor-powered water sports. There are other areas in Abu Dhabi where people can do that, but Saadiyat will be a more discrete tourism experience, with peace and quiet. It will be quite a quiet stretch of beach, where people will be able to swim and sail.

How does the new hotel compare with other Park Hyatt hotels?

The Park Hyatt we’re opening, Abu Dhabi’s first, will be the biggest in this part of the world. It’s 306 rooms, including a number of villas. Compared to other Park Hyatts, we will have larger meeting facilities as we’re trying to entice small incentives groups and small meetings groups.

Who do you see as your main source market?

We still see Europe as very strong for us. The UK has always been the biggest, and I think that will continue. I would imagine we will get a fair amount of German and Russian business as well. We will also have a strong focus on Middle Eastern guests – we hope to get a fair number of guests from our doorstep.

And Asia?

I think we’ll get some. China seems to be growing quite strong, particularly for Dubai, and I think we must try and have a look at that market as well. We will also get some business from Hong Kong and Singapore.

 

Can you tell me about the design of the hotel?

It is a resort. It’s a low-rise building, like all the hotel developments on Saadiyat Beach. It has a modern Arabic style, with a lot of open courtyards. The idea is it is a smart but not overly formal resort – we want to take the residential feel of a Park Hyatt and translate that into a resort. But even though it’s a resort, anyone needing to do business can be downtown within 15 minutes. It’s a perfect location – we’re very lucky. I expect we’ll have a good mix of leisure, business and small meetings and incentives groups.

What are the meetings facilities like?

We have a good-sized ballroom, at 700 sqm, and good-sized break-out rooms. We’re also pleased to have a purpose-built area called the residence, where individuals can take over the whole area. There is a kitchen area, so guests could do private dinners, or celebrations or weddings. The idea is that this will be a stand-alone facility, where people will feel as if they are in somebody’s home.

Is Abu Dhabi a popular MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and events) destination?

The local tourist board has recently started a fantastic advertising campaign to really emphasise the cultural aspects of Abu Dhabi and encouraging MICE-type business. I think it’s an up and coming destination in terms of that market, and hotels, including ourselves, on Saadiyat will be set up to engage with it.

Hyatt Hotels and Resorts is also opening another hotel in Abu Dhabi this year, under the Grand Hyatt brand. What is the appeal of the emirate for the hotel group?

It seems to be a real growth area. Abu Dhabi offers the visitor a real sense of Arabic hospitality and a lot of the promotion that is done is about really gaining a feel for the region when you come to the city. Abu Dhabi also has many beautiful beaches and islands, of which Saadiyat is one. It’s such a natural resource that we think Abu Dhabi will be attractive for visitors.

Do you think now is a good time to open?

As the visitor numbers have been starting to build up – around a 20% increase on this quarter compared to last year – it’s a good time to develop hotels, especially as Abu Dhabi itself is developing so quickly. There seem to be significant signs of improvement in the economic situation now. The construction industry is gaining steam again and preparing for growth again.

How does Saadiyat Island fit in to the development plans for Abu Dhabi long term?

In the long term, over the next 10 to 15 years, the plan is to develop Saadiyat into a fantastic island, so that it will be a destination in itself. There will be two golf courses – one of which is there already – plus a marina. The cultural aspects include the Guggenheim, the Louvre, the Sheikh Zayed Museum. It will be an area to come and have a few days holiday or an incentive trip.

Does the pace of development in Abu Dhabi appeal to you?

I was the GM of the Park Hyatt Dubai for the past three years. I think the whole region is very exciting. I enjoyed my time in Dubai, and when the opportunity came to bring the Park Hyatt brand to Abu Dhabi I absolutely jumped at the chance.

What are you looking forward to most about the opening?

This is the second hotel I’ve opened. I opened the Grand Hyatt Tokyo as well. I really enjoy that first day when you walk in the door. And when you get a compliment about things you’ve spent a long time thinking about and working on.

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