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Rotana v Jumeirah

As Jumeirah lands in China and Rotana expands across the Middle East, how do the two home-grown brands compare? Plus, we check into those all important room rates…

Hundreds of hotels are under construction in the Middle East. Hospitality consultancy HVS estimates 120,000 new rooms are set to come on the market, with Dubai alone planning to add 13,000 new rooms during 2008 alone. In the last decade, the regional hospitality market has witnessed the emergence of two ambitious players: government-owned Jumeirah Group and privately-owned Rotana.
In 1992, Nasser Al-Nowais and Selim El-Zyr partnered up to establish Rotana Hotels Management Corporation (Rotana Hotels) and opened the first Rotana Hotel in Abu Dhabi in 1993. They were joined in 1995 by Nael Hashweh and Imad Elias and in 2006; a 40% stake of the company (comprising a capital increase and a partial sale by existing shareholders) was put on the market.
Today, Rotana manages 24 properties throughout the Middle East and has 41 projects in the pipeline. In order to cater to the expanding mid-budget market, Rotana also launched its Centro brand in 2007.
Established in 1997, Jumeirah Group became part of the government’s Dubai Holding in 2004. This home-grown brand, with iconic properties such as Burj Al-Arab and Madinat Jumeirah, has more global aspirations than its competitor. It plans to grow its portfolio of 11 luxury hotels and resorts worldwide to 60 venues by 2012, with the next big launch slated for Shanghai.
The group is also diversifying its revenue stream by capitalizing on its branded restaurants (it has outlets in Dubai under the brands Bytes, The Agency, Noodle House and Sana Bonta, and hopes to franchise the concepts have 150 restaurants by 2012) and serviced apartments. Its activities are not restricted to hospitality services: the group also runs the Wild Wadi water park and the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management.
Basically, top-notch luxury hotels and resorts such as Rotana’s and Jumeirah’s offer the same range of products and services: lavish facilities, from the state of the art hotel room or suite to the deluxe pool villas and three-bedroom luxury residential villas, ballrooms, etc. But there’s little doubt that Jumeirah is the posher of the two.
Answering the growing concern for health and fitness, both Rotana and Jumeirah also inaugurated their own brand spa: in 2006, Rotana opened its first Zen spa at the Grand Rotana Resort & Spa in Sharm El Sheikh, and in February 2007, Jumeirah launched its spa brand, Talise Wellness, with its first branch at Madinat Jumeirah. The group plans to take Talise worldwide along with its brand.
Similarly, both hotels chains developed serviced residences for longer stays, but in this regard, Jumeirah clearly pushed the envelope further than Rotana: While Rotana Suites provide guests with the usual kitchenettes and all day dining, Jumeirah Living offer tailored services including a dedicated concierge team and personalized decoration and fit-outs for those staying longer than six months.
Focused on the Middle East and North Africa, Rotana Hotels follows an ambitious expansion plan; in addition to its 24 operating properties, the company prepares for the opening of 19 more venues between now and 2010 in Abu Dhabi, Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Al Ain, Bahrain, Sudan, Oman and Kurdistan. Rotana also formed a network of alliances with various partner hotels (such as Thistle Hotels, Affinia Hospitality and First Hotels) giving their patrons access to over 180 boutique-style hotels spanning four continents.
Jumeirah is looking global: The group now operates 11 hotels, including three overseas (two in London, one in New York), but expects to manage 60 hotels and resorts worldwide by 2012. Developments are underway in Aqaba, Doha, Phuket, Shanghai, London and Bermuda (where Jumeirah will operate the first new luxury resort to be built in 35 years). In October 2007, the group inked a long-term management deal for its first European resort in Mallorca.
Three years ago, all Jumeirah’s hotels began featuring the group’s name in order to help build a global super-brand. Similarly, all Rotana’s venues display the Rotana brand name. Jumeirah’s unique selling proposition, however, is that it avoids the “cookie-cutter approach.” Each of the group’s hotels has a substantially different luxury character.
With regards to identity, Jumeirah claims to represent the Arab region coming in to the modern world, centering its approach on the “Stay different” motto, while Rotana takes pride in offering “the best of both worlds,” providing a combination of international know-how and local experience.
With roughly the same core target, both companies compete on a symbolic level: Jumeirah proudly promotes Burj Al-Arab as “the world tallest all-suites hotel”, soaring at a 321 meters height, whereas Rotana announced its management deal for Rose Rotana Suites, “the tallest all-suite hotel in the world” that will be 323 meters high.
Still, Jumeirah clearly define itself ahead of the competition in terms of luxury. Its Burj Al-Arab is rightly labelled “the world’s most luxurious hotel.” The group targets sophisticated, international travellers with feeder markets from Europe, in particular Britain, Germany, and Switzerland.
The more global of the two brands, Jumeirah is working on diversification, and plans for a worldwide footprint that is 30 percent Asia-based, with 34 percent in the Middle East and the rest split evenly between Europe and the Americas.
Rotana has a core target of international businessmen traveling to the Middle East. Many services such as Meeting Plus (a total business environment) and Club Rotana (tailor-made services for traveling executive) have been specifically designed to fit this segment of costumers. Aware of the increasing need to meet the demands of a new generation of younger travellers, looking for quality services at reasonable rates, Rotana also launched its second brand of hotels, Centro by Rotana.
Average room rates in Dubai are among the world’s highest in all cases – but Rotana’s and Jumeirah’s are miles apart.
For a booking on a weekend in November 2008, one night at the Al Qasr in the Madinat Jumeirah complex at the Ocean Club Executive Room costs $1226, inclusive of taxes, including breakfast, airport pick-up and drop-off, and access to the Executive Lounge (which, the hotel’s bookings office reminds us, includes unlimited free snacks). A night at the Deluxe Arabian Room costs $801, but that’s just for the room.
Had to catch your breath reading that paragraph? Rates are much, much lower with Rotana, with a regular single room at the relatively grungy Jumeira Rotana Hotel (off Diyafa Street in Satwa) going for $286 and around $425 for a Premium room at Towers Rotana on Sheikh Zayed Road. Rooms and offers at Rotana’s venues are in fact available in most online discount booking websites, which is certainly not the case for Jumeirah.
All of which just goes to show – there’s luxury and then there’s luxury.


1 Comment

  1. Taz on October 19, 2008 4:18 pm

    Small correction, the Jumeriah Restaurant mentioned in the 4th paragraph should be written as ‘Bytes’.

    I know I am being pedantic. Keep up the great work.


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