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Rotana v Jumeirah

Jumeirah, Rotana

In the Middle-East, where an estimated 300 new hotels are currently under development (with Dubai alone planning 45,000 extra rooms), the hospitality market has witnessed the birth and growth 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. Rotana currently manages 25 properties throughout the Middle-East and has 28 more projects in the pipe, intending to have at least one Rotana managed property in all the major cities throughout the Middle East within the next five years and to operate 60 properties by 2012. In order to cater to the expanding medium-sized budgets market, Rotana also launched in 2007 its new Centro brand.

Established in 1997, Jumeirah Group became part of Dubai Holding, the investment arm of the government, 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 12 luxury hotels and resorts worldwide to 57 venues by 2011. The group is also diversifying its revenue stream by capitalizing on its branded restaurants (it has 120 outlets in Dubai under the brands Bites, The Agency, Noodle House, Sana Bonta) and serviced apartments. Its activities are however 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. 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 the spa’ at the Grand Rotana Resort & Spa in Sharm El Sheikh, and last February, Jumeirah launched its Talise spa, first open at Madinat Jumeirah and planned for four Jumeirah properties by 2008.

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 dedicated concierge team and personalized decoration (painting, home gym, etc.).


Focused on the MENA region, Rotana Hotels follows an ambitious expansion plan; in addition to its 25 operating properties, the company prepares for the opening of 19 more venues between 2008 and 2010 in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Ras Al-Khaimah, 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 12 properties, including three overseas (two in London, one in New York), but expects to manage 60 hotels and resorts worldwide by 2010. 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, the group also inked a long-term management deal for its first European resort in Mallorca.


According to the 2006 BDRC Middle East Hotel Guest Survey, “branded hotels generally perform better than their unbranded counterparts” and “luxury hotels have educated the market to like brands”. So it’s no surprise that on June 2005, all Jumeirah’s hotels featured the group’s name in order to help build a global super-brand. Jumeirah’s whole promotion rests on its will to get its hotels to “become destinations in their own right”, according to Gerald Lawless, executive chairman of the group. Similarly, all Rotana’s venues have been displaying the Rotana brand extensively.

With regards to identity, Jumeirah claims to represent the Arabic 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.

Competition is tough on the awards front: Jumeirah picked up four awards over 18 at this year’s Hotelier Middle East Awards while Rotana packed a total of 16 awards at various awards events, including the 14th Annual World Travel Awards.


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 in terms of luxury with Burj Al-Arab labeled “the world’s most luxurious hotel”. The group targets sophisticated, international travelers with feeder markets from Europe, in particular Britain, Germany, and Switzerland. It is actively working on diversification, Asia (in particular China and India), Russia and the US showing most promising prospects.

Rotana, that has recently introduced International Sales Offices in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Frankfurt, Kuwait, London and India, 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 travelers, looking for quality services at reasonable rates, Rotana also launched its second brand of hotels, Centro by Rotana.


At $286, average room rates in Dubai are among the world’s highest but impressive differences show between Rotana Hotels and Jumeirah Group, reflecting well each operator’s policy.

One night at the Al Qasr Madinat Jumeirah in an Executive Arabian room will cost around $950 and a Twin Deluxe room Jumeirah Emirates will cost around $760. Rates are way lower with Rotana, with $178 for a Twin Classic room at the Jumeira Rotana Hotel and around $340 for a Premium room at Towers Rotana. Rooms and offers at Rotana’s venues are in fact available in most online discount booking websites, which is not the case for Jumeirah.

Of course, both operators developed rewards programs. Jumeirah’s Sirius, in partnership with several airlines (such as Emirates, Virgin, Delta, etc.), allows cumulating and exchanging miles.

In 2005, Rotana Hotels launched its Rotana Rewards program, divided in three options: Classic (awarded points can be redeemed towards over 650 gifts), Exclusive (complimentary dining, beverages discount, preferred room rate, late check-out and VIP recognition services are provided for a yearly additional $205 fee) and Select (a range of over 700 gifts, including airline tickets, jewellery, etc.), an extension of the Exclusive program coinciding with the launch of Rotana’s new website.


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