Emaar Properties, Dubai’s largest-listed real estate developer, may be selling off its assets in the emirate, but it's also looking to expand its presence internationally.
Emaar has launched business-development operations in China, an initiative announced earlier this year during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping of China to the UAE, the first visit by a Chinese leader to the Gulf state in 29 years. This is meant to complement the "Belt and Road Initiative," a development strategy adopted by the Chinese government involving international infrastructure development and investments announced by President Xi five years ago.
Several of these developments aim to build on improving the business relationship between Dubai and China. For example, Emirates Airlines will fly to key Chinese cities and Chinese visitors can get their UAE visas upon arrival.
In a bid to bolster its own business ties with China, Emaar plans to develop the Middle East’s largest Chinatown in the retail district of Dubai Creek Harbour. Perhaps not coincidentally, Emaar has a new hotel project underway in the district, although the company has not yet announced an opening date for Address Harbour Point, part of a 1.4 million-square-foot development that also will include the Address Residences Harbour Point.
“The visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the UAE is historic and will further strengthen UAE-China relations,” said Mohamed Alabbar, chairman of Emaar Properties, in July. “The development of the new Chinese retail and lifestyle district at Dubai Creek Harbour—as well as Emaar’s expansion into China, both in property and hospitality—highlight our commitment to the country, and our focus on contributing to the strength and success of UAE-China relations.”
The New Silk Road?
Emaar will be working with the UAE embassy in Beijing to boost the nation’s appeal among Chinese investors. The developer already has a team on site in the country and is opening offices in Beijing and Shanghai.
Ali Obaid Al Daheri, UAE ambassador to China, reportedly has been promoting UAE-China ties through trade relations and tourism, as well as highlighting the UAE’s appeal as an investment hub.
Investment will be going both ways and part of the development will be the expansion of Emaar's Address Hotels + Resorts to China. Address-branded hotels are set to open in "key cities" in the country. These developments are expected to build on the familiarity that the brand already has among Chinese tourists.
Chinese tourists to Dubai have more than doubled over the past four years, and through September saw a record 641,000 visitors to the city for an increase of 12 percent, making China Dubai’s fastest-growing tourism source market. China also is the UAE’s largest non-oil trading partner, with bilateral trade between the two increasing 15 percent to $53 billion in 2017.
With Emaar expanding into China's hospitality sector, the company will be able to take advantage of the country's strong domestic travel sector and build brand awareness, according to the company.