Why the boss of Dubai's newest luxury hotel is upbeat despite coronavirus delay

Omar Souab, GM of Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk, says he is confident that international tourism will rebound over the next few months

The general manager of Dubai’s newest luxury hotel, whose opening was delayed by six months, remains optimistic about the emirate’s tourism prospects.

Omar Souab, GM of Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk, hailed authorities’ response to the Covid-19 crisis, saying their “swift and successful” action will lead to an increase in tourism down the line.

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“Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk was originally scheduled to open in April, but when coronavirus commenced early this year, we re-assessed economic factors and strategically re-scheduled the opening date after summer,” said Souab, pictured below.

Back in March, occupancy levels in Dubai’s hotels dropped by almost 30 percent year-on-year according to analysts STR as the impact of coronavirus hammered home on the emirate’s hospitality industry.

According to valuation consultancy Cavendish Maxwell, 16 percent of the UAE hotels it tracked had either closed or operated at minimum capacity in June. On a room basis, 27 percent had closed in Dubai versus 8 percent in Abu Dhabi.

Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk, the largest Sofitel property in the Middle East and Africa region, opened its doors last week.

“Despite these unprecedented times, we are extremely confident that the economy will pick up and that we as a hotel will gear up along with the economy,” said Souab.

He added: “The Dubai authorities have always been exceptional in managing the pandemic thanks to the great leadership of the government and guidance provided to the public and hotel industry. The city went through a government-regulated quarantine and re-opened successfully. Social distancing rules and regulations are in place, and testing is very accessible.

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“We feel that Dubai is ready to start accepting international visitors and I do believe that the city will see an increase in tourism over the next few months as a result of the swift and successful response to Covid-19.”

For the foreseeable future, the 595-room property will be targeting UAE residents and GCC clientele when their travel restrictions are lifted.

“We are also targeting long-stay guests with our residences which I am delighted to say have been received very positively with bookings doing well,” explained Souab referring to The Obelisk’s serviced long-stay residences.

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Once government-regulated quarantines in Europe are lifted, Souab said the hotel will also be looking at the European and Asian markets.

Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk boasts five F&B outlets which Souab expects will contribute 35 percent to the hotel’s revenue mix.

F&B concepts include Brasserie Boulud, a partnership with Michelin star chef-owner Daniel Boulud and the first international outpost of Taiko, the award-winning restaurant of the Conservatorium Hotel in Amsterdam.

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