Developers still see runway in Dubai

(Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre)

Dubai's hotel scene shows no sign of slowing down. On the heels of Rotana's plans to open close to 1,000 new rooms in the emirate, other global brands are working on major developments set to open ahead of the 2020 Expo. 

Hilton Worldwide is set to open a Waldorf Astoria hotel in the Dubai International Financial Centre next year. The company has signed a management agreement with Ward Holdings for the property.

The 247-room Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre will be part of a mixed-use residential, retail and office-space development on Al Saada Street, opposite the DIFC.

Last year, Hilton opened three Hilton Garden Inn hotels in Dubai, signed an agreement for the first Hampton by Hilton in the Middle East, and also confirmed the first Curio, a Collection by Hilton for Dubai with The Rosemont Hotel & Residences.

At the same time, Emaar Hospitality Group is set to open its first new Address ­hotel in six years. The Address Boulevard will be part of a new 72-story Downtown Dubai tower linked to The Dubai Mall, and is expected to open this year. If so, it will open before restoration to the Address Downtown Dubai—which was damaged in a fire on New Year's Eve—is completed. This project is also slated to reopen by the end of the year, but that deadline is less certain. 

Once complete, The Address Boulevard will be the second-tallest tower in Downtown Dubai and the sixth-tallest in Dubai.

Robert Booth, a former CEO of Emaar’s Dubai opera­tions who is now co-managing director of Ellington Properties, his own development firm, said that Dubai needed many more new hotels. “Last year, we had 14.5 million tourist visitors, and that number is going to grow to 25 million in 2020," he said. "To accommodate that tourism growth, you need 5,000 new hotel rooms for every 1 million new visitors you get. For an average size of 200 rooms per hotel, that’s 25 new hotels you need every year to accommodate the increase in tourism.”

But there are alternatives to luxury and upscale growth. As noted earlier this month, the Al Khoory Group's hospitality division, for example, is planning to develop three mid-market hotels in Dubai as part of new expansion plans. If the emirate is to reach its goal of attracting 20 million visitors by 2020, there will need to be a broader range of properties available for a wide spectrum of visitors.