In early May the Al Habtoor Group Chairman held discussions with Frits van Paasschen, President and Chief Executive Officer of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. The delegation from the American hotel and leisure company included Guido E. De Wilde, Senior Vice President, Regional Director – Middle East, and Neil George, Vice President Acquisitions & Development. Present from the Al Habtoor Group was Mohammed Al Habtoor, CEO and Vice-Chairman; Paul Rayner, Advisor to the Chairman; Maan Halabi, Executive Director, and Henning Fries, Managing Director-Hospitality.
They discussed the rapid progress of Al Habtoor City, the multi-use development on Sheikh Zayed Road, which will include three Starwood branded hotels (St. Regis, Westin and W hotel). The development will also feature three high-rise residential towers for exclusive living, a Europeanstyle boulevard, a marina alongside the Dubai Water Canal and an exclusive Franco Dragone Entertainment Group water-themed production exclusively choreographed for the development. The project which was due to open in 2016 is ahead of schedule. It is now expected to receive its first guests mid 2015.
Frits said, once complete, it will be the only place in the world to have three Starwood hotels on one plot. He added that the United Arab Emirates is one of the top destinations that is home to the most Starwood hotels. He pointed out that Dubai has more Starwood hotels than New York.
The meeting followed an earlier meeting in March which was attended by Michael Wale, the new President of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. Wale, who is President for Europe, Africa and Middle East, was accompanied by Guido de Wilde, Senior Vice President.
In his role, Wale directly oversees the operations for almost 250 hotels and resorts in 60 countries. He was appointed to this position in June 2013 and is based at the company’s EAME divisional office in Brussels, Belgium.
Al Habtoor said that Dubai is a highly competitive city with highly trained and skilled people, which has contributed to its success. He pointed out the strength of the partnership between the Al Habtoor Group and Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide. “The cooperation between the Al Habtoor Group and Starwood is excellent,” he said. “We work as one team.”
Wale added, “Partnership between the operator and owner has to be very strong. We are lucky that ours is strong.”
The Al Habtoor Group and Starwood are partners in the historic Le Méridien Budapest, just steps away from the River Danube.