The Al Habtoor Group has confirmed Hilton as the franchisor for its three Business Bay hotels. The hotels will be franchised, and they will now be managed and operated by Al Habtoor Group.
The Al Habtoor City hotels — known until now as The St. Regis Dubai, W Dubai Habtoor City and Westin Dubai Al Habtoor City — were previously operated by Marriott International.
At a press conference at the newly unveiled Habtoor Palace, LXR Hotels & Resorts, it was revealed that St. Regis Dubai will be the LXR Hotels & Resorts property (234 rooms, a debut in the region), W Dubai Habtoor City will be the V Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton (356 rooms), and the Westin Dubai Al Habtoor City will be the Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City (1,004 rooms).
Mohammed Al Habtoor was present at the press conference, along with Ian Carter, president of global development, architecture, design & construction of Hilton.
When asked to comment on the operator change from Marriott International to Hilton as the new franchisor, Al Habtoor said: "Sometimes when you are married, you have a divorce between two parties. Sometimes it's the husband who wants it or sometimes it's the wife. We ended our relationship with Marriott amicably and we still have a very good existing relationship with Marriott and they will continue to operate our hotels around the world."
Al Habtoor further added: "Al Habtoor City is not just about three hotels, it's more about a lifestyle and a destination, as they are the signature properties for the brand not just in Dubai but all over the world."
He continued, “The announcement today increases our partnership with Hilton from five hotels to eight hotels around the world.” Carter added: "The three properties are a fantastic representation of each of the three brands we will be bringing to Al Habtoor City."
According to Carter, the agreement to franchise the hotels will see the debut of the LXR Hotels and Resorts brand - a brand that was first revealed in 2005 by Blackstone. Carter also added that the new partnership was a team effort and how the teams crammed in a years' worth of effort into just weeks to make this happen on time.
"The LXR Hotels and Resorts' brand debut and representation is really important for us at Hilton, especially at this marquee location and we can't wait to unveil it to you all soon," he said.
Al Habtoor confirmed at the conference that only four out of 1,020 employees were replaced, and noted that the transition has been smooth so far. The F&B outlets will stay as they are currently.
Carter said at the conference, commenting on the tourism prospects of the city: "I first came here 20 years ago and there were only two or three hotels on the beach so it's interesting to see how much Dubai has changed and developed especially with the addition of all the new tourism destinations and hotels in the city."
On Expo, Carter added that as a hotel company it's nothing better to see how many people they can entertain at its hotels in the coming years and at the same time how many people the company can employ in the region based on that.
"If you look at the history of Expo, you have to go back a 100 years to Chicago. When you look at Expo, it is another great marquee event that Dubai has attracted due to airlift from Emirates and you have a great destination here with a lot of attractions, so I don’t see a dip in tourism after Expo 2020."
When the hotels first opened, it was Dubai’s first St. Regis, the UAE’s first W hotel and the largest Westin in the Middle East. The hotels collectively offer nearly 1,600 rooms, 18 restaurants and lounges, two spas, 34 meeting and banqueting spaces and three ballrooms.
When news of the deflagging was made public, Marriott International said in a statement to Hotelier Middle East that it was a mutual decision reached amicably between the parties, adding that the management of these hotels will be transferred to the owning company.
"The parties are working closely together to ensure a smooth and seamless transition for associates, clients and partners," the statement said.
As of July 1, 2018, Marriott International also no longer manages The St. Regis Dubai, Al Habtoor Polo Resort and Club. The management has been transferred to Al Habtoor Group.