Atlantis is talking to global governments about adding a mega-resort to their country, while Emaar is focusing on feeder markets to supercharge Dubai tourism.
What brands come to mind when you think “luxury”? Rolls Royce, Rolex, Chanel? “Dubai” is going to be the next one, as the modern emirate’s premier luxury hoteliers gear up to expand their properties across the region and then the world.
Both Emaar Hospitality Group and Atlantis Resorts are two regional powerhouses closely linked to the glamorous transformation of Dubai. Speaking at the Skift Global Forum East 2023, Emaar Hospitality head Mark Kirby and Atlantis’ global president Timothy Kelly spoke about the “Dubai miracle” and why now is the time to expand outside the city.
For Emaar, much of its success since entered the hotel space in 2007 has been linked to the success of the city. Emaar Hospitality has opened hotels in Dubai’s most sought-after locations, including an Armani-branded hotel within the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.
Kirby reflected: “Dubai has been a huge part of our success. We have 37 hotels today in the UAE, GCC and beyond. We have grown because of collaborations done in Dubai. Dubai Tourism has continued to support us in terms of driving visits but also in driving our brands.”
“Each of our brands evolved as the city (of Dubai) evolved. We made sure we had a brand for anybody coming in.”
Emaar’s hotel brands are Armani, Palace and Address in the luxury space, and Vida and Rove (a joint partnership with Meraas) in midscale.
For Kelly, he just has one brand to play with, though it has become a destination creation machine, according to the newly-minted global chief.
He said: “The form of Atlantis is wanted over many regions now. It’s big, it’s big for countries, it’s big for governments. There are a lot of jobs and dollars it brings to a place. For us, our objective is to export Atlantis to every continent.”
With Atlantis, the scale of projects are so large, that the group is talking directly to countries’ governments about expansion rather than investors. Atlantis The Royal in Dubai cost close to $2 billion to build.
Kelly said: “When we go into a destination, we go to the community, we go to the government and we tell them we want to put an Atlantis there. It’s not a case of investors telling us they want an Atlantis, it doesn’t work that way.”
“We need alignment at a government level. After that, we look for the investors. If you go money first, it’s not the same. We form connections with governments, make sure we align with values and look for the money.”
Going Global or Staying Local?
According to Kirby, who is currently in early-stage talks for hotels in Saudi Arabia, China, Japan and the Maldives, Emaar has a duty to bring Dubai’s success overseas.
He said on stage: “We look at where our (existing) guests are traveling to and looking at those places. We’ve built all our relationships based on the success in Dubai. Dubai started with international brands, then it began to build its own.”
Kelly meanwhile has a vision to turn Atlantis into a truly global brand, rather than just anchoring itself to Dubai.
The president explained: “An Atlantis should be a lighthouse in any destination, the feature and centerpiece of a destination. It should stand alone. That’s our belief system.”
“For us, part of our hook is that we bring the lighthouse. It’ll take five to six years to build and it takes a lot of money to build, so it has to have its own persona and identity. That’s what we will do, but it will follow the core principles of our enterprise.”
“Atlantis stands alone, Atlantis Dubai stands alone against the world. We don’t have resorts peppered all over the world. Anywhere we do enter, we sell our best case, our best experiences. Our investment and marketing is second to none.”