Like malls and superlative experiences (longest zip line, tallest building), world-class hotels are synonymous with the UAE. It doesn’t matter what emirate you’re living in; take a look around and you’re sure to discover at least one new hotel has cropped up in your city in 2017. Even sleepy Al Ain was set astir by two new hotel launches last year – the Aloft Al Ain and a new Ayla Hotel. This sudden renaissance of the country’s hotel industry is in parts a happy upshot of the Expo 2020 and partly due to the country’s conscious effort to tap into tourism.
The hotel boom holds promise for residents, too – for starters discerning hospitality brands like the Edition are making the UAE their home, which means we’re living in one of the world’s fashion, entertainment and cultural capitals of the world (go on, give yourself a pat on the back). The arrival of destination-themed hotels like the Emerald Palace Kempinski will inspire you to travel to France to experience Versailles but save you the trouble and envy until you (and your savings) can make that trip.
Sharjah’s heritage hotel, Al Bait, is a treasure trove of heritage and tradition that we hope will silence critics and foreign visitors who complain that hotels in the UAE are too modern, too glossy and lack a story. It also ushers the UAE into the coveted heritage hotel sector – a category that has long been the stronghold of places like India and Europe.
What’s even more exciting about the UAE’s hotel industry is the sheer variety – from budget-friendly four-star hotels, to design-led eclectic exports to opulent, uber-luxurious five-star resorts, there’s something to suit everyone’s taste, budgets and requirements; Time hotels are even launching a medical tourism hotel in 2019.
The Hotel Show Dubai’s 2017 edition predicted 83 new hotel launches for 2018, although some of these, including many exciting Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah properties, have been pushed over to a 2019 launch. Some projects are still up in the air, but around 23 of them will be ready in 2018 to welcome you on your next weekend getaway. Of those 23, we’ve picked the hottest ten hotels that you should keep your eyes peeled for. Happy staycationing!
1. Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas, Abu Dhabi
Initially set to open up its doors in the winter of 2017, the Saadiyat Rotana Resort was part of our 2017 roundup. The 327 luxurious rooms and suites and 13 private villas (each with their own plunge pools), however, have been pushed back to an early 2018 opening, although no date has been finalised yet.
The resort will cater to leisure travellers with facilities like a mini golf course, tennis courts, the Rotana brand’s signature Zen Spa and Bodylines Fitness Club, an Aladdin’s Cave kids club and eight F&B outlets. Thanks to the delayed launch, we now know exactly what the restaurants are – Sim Sim will be the all-day dining restaurant, Si Ristorante Italiano and Bar will be the first Italian eatery and gastro pub on the island, Turtle Bay Bar and Grill is a two-storey rooftop restaurant serving a surf ‘n turf menu and then there’s Hamilton’s Gastropub, an American/British pub.
The other three outlets are Nasma Beachfront Bar, the Pool Bar and Sama Lobby Lounge. In the capital for business? Three fully-equipped banquet rooms and a grand ballroom will sort you out.
2. Jumeirah Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi
In stark contrast to the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, a towering skyscraper that was the first Jumeirah property in the capital, the Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island will be a low-lying, beachfront resort perched on the edge of 400 metres of pristine private beach. Both hotels have architectural firm DBI Australia in common, which means the resort is expected to be as glamorous and stylish as its city counterpart, albeit with a marine theme. Its 293 sea-facing rooms, including eight villas and 70 suites, will all be done up in serene, neutral colours and jewel-toned accessories to recreate the ocean indoors.
However, it’s the Abu Dhabi and Al Ain Suites on the resort’s top-most floor that take the architectural cake when it comes to blurring the line between the outdoors and the indoors – the suites will have floor-to-ceiling glass walls that open up to let in the sea breeze.
The resort will have eight restaurants – all-day dining venue White, Mare Mare, a relaxed poolside restaurant serving modern Italian cuisine, and Zaytoune, a Levantine-inspired restaurant that will specialise in mezze and grills, are highlights. There’s also a pool bar with in-water seating.
As far as leisure facilities go, the Jumeirah Saadiyat will have a 2,200 sqm cavernous spa with 14 treatment rooms, hydrotherapy pools, a salt room, and a traditional Arabic rasul (yes, mud!) room. There’s also a gym, a tennis court, a kids club and three outdoor infinity swimming pools with a separate children’s pool and an adults-only pool.
The Jumeirah Saadiyat Island is due to open in the summer of 2018.
3. The Abu Dhabi Edition
The Edition hotels come with an illustrious legacy – it’s the brainchild of renowned hotelier Ian Schrager, who is credited with having created the boutique hotel category. The Abu Dhabi Edition is the first in the region, so it’s exciting to see what the stylish lifestyle brand’s Middle Eastern debut has to offer when it opens in late 2018.
Part of the Marriott International portfolio, Edition hotels are known for their vibrant public spaces and unique design that varies from city to city.
For now, we know that the The Abu Dhabi Edition will be a 198-key waterfront property situated in Abu Dhabi Marina’s Al Bateen area. F&B outlets will include two signature restaurants, a gourmet market, a lobby bar, a tea lounge, a pool bar and three-story nightclub.
The hotel will also have two pools, a fitness centre and a spa with seven treatment rooms and for the corporate travellers it will have 900 square meters of meeting and events space including meeting studios, a ballroom and boardrooms.
4. Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel & Residences Emirates Pearl
Stepping away from the collection of resorts opening in quick succession on Saadiyat Island, the first Grand Hyatt property in Abu Dhabi has chosen to base itself in the thick of things in the busy West Corniche area – a shopping and dining hub. But you’ll hardly have to leave the hotel, considering the self-described ‘five-star urban resort’ offers it all – from two cinemas and a private beach to seven restaurants that will offer guests a horde of dining options (Japanese and Italian to Latin grill and international buffets).
Set to open in the first quarter of 2018, the hotel will have 368 rooms and suites, most of them with private balconies and an entire floor dedicated to a wellness centre. You’ll find a spa with 11 treatment rooms, an infinity pool with beach access and an adults-only outdoor pool and a 24-hour fitness centre with an outdoor gym terrace. All of the 13 meeting spaces will have private terraces and can seat up to 150 guests.
5. Sharjah Al Bait
It’s been a while since Sharjah has welcomed a luxury resort, which makes the opening of the Al Bait Sharjah later this year doubly exciting. Keep your eyes peeled for this one, because it’s a variation on a historic hotel, which are few and far between in the UAE hotel industry, known for its glossy, towering hotels.
The 53-key five-star property (by General Hotel Management Ltd, the company behind the renowned Chedi Muscat, and Shurooq, the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority) one to is packed to the rafters with heritage – from its location in Heart of Sharjah, the emirate’s historical inner-city district under restoration, to its unique and construction that uses foundations of old houses that once belonged to important families in the area. Hence the name Al Bait, which means ‘home’ in Arabic.
Architecturally too, the hotel will showcase traditional styles and textures through handcrafted thatched roofs and motifs that will ensure it blends in seamlessly with other historic buildings in the area. The resort’s luxury guestrooms and suites, we’re told, will overlook the conservation project of the last remaining round wind tower and the hotel will have a direct connection to Souq Al Arsah – the UAE’s oldest traditional bazaar and marketplace.
Inside, you’ll find modern amenities like meeting spaces and four lavish restaurants, a spa with hammam facilities and a health club. As of now, we only know that the hotel’s construction is scheduled for a 2018 finish.
The Palm Jumeirah is back to being the place that puts Dubai on the tourism map with an array of new hotels set to launch across the island. In the past, the island’s crescent has been where all the hotel action is – from the iconic Atlantis to Anantara The Palm and The Fairmont, which opened in 2012, all making the 12km breakwater their chosen location.
That trend saw a change in 2017, when the hotel boom spread out and across the world’s largest manmade island with the Dukes Dubai and the FIVE Palm Jumeirah opening their doors on the trunk of the island by the Golden Mile. But all eyes are being drawn crescent-wards – the west crescent to be precise – this year thanks to two exciting launches: The Emerald Palace Kempinski Hotel and the W Palm.
6. Emerald Palace Kempinski Hotel
Old-world opulence seems to be the theme at this hotel that’s heavily inspired by 18th century Europe and Louis XV, evident in its classical design and furnishings. With a ‘Versailles by the Sea’ tagline, we think the opulent 389-room hotel is set to do for Dubai what the Emirates Palace (also a Kempinski hotel) did for Abu Dhabi in terms of a palatial hotel experience. Guests will step into a world of ornate crystal chandeliers, marble and gold floorings, silver leaf-plated wood, luxurious drapery, 100,000 sqm of landscaped tropical gardens keeping in step with the Versailles theme.
The hotel also claims to have what is said to be the most spacious room categories available on the Palm and the island’s largest indoor swimming pool. The gilt-edged experience extends to the F&B concepts too – Mix by three-star Michelin chef Alain Ducasse, the Italian restaurant All’onda from New York, and Japanese restaurant Teriyaki Sum make up the F&B concepts. The Emerald Palace will also have an 80-seat private cinema and a 500m private beach. We’re told it’s to open in the first quarter of the year.
7. W Dubai – The Palm
The trendy W beach resort will be ready to welcome guests in June 2018 and not just the two-legged kind, mind you – the pet-friendly resort will gladly check-in guests’ pooches and felines (as its Habtoor City branch already does). The 350-room hotel will also have the distinction of being the Middle East’s first W Escape property – a feather in Dubai’s cap, as W Escapes are an exclusive portfolio of resorts reserved for destinations categorised as the entertainment capitals of the world.
That means the W Palm will have all the makings of a cool new party place with a pool area called the WET deck, and DND suites – elevated cabanas hidden away next to the WET deck – and SoBe, an adults-only Miami-inspired rooftop lounge. It will also be the only W hotel in the region to have the brand’s signature Away Spa; the spa will have a beauty bar, 11 treatment rooms, a plunge pool and beauty pods for hair and make-up.
There’s plenty to look forward to in the guest rooms too – all rooms, including 58 suites will have bright and funky interior design elements – think glittering mosaic tiles and calligraphy-strewn walls, great views and Bliss Spa bath amenities but it’s the 1,720sqm E-WOW Suite, spanning two stories, that epitomises luxury. Foodies will be delighted to know the hotel’s six in-house restaurants will include Torno Subito, award-winning chef Massimo Bottura’s only restaurant outside of Italy and Akira Back, a Japanese restaurant with a Korean twist. W The Palm also offers the brand’s Whatever/Whenever concierge service that helps guests make the most of Dubai’s sights and events.
8. ME by Meliá Dubai
Downtown Dubai’s skyline is set to welcome a new architectural icon when the city’s first ME by Melia hotel – Melia’s trendy lifestyle brand – opens in September 2018. The hotel is part of the futuristic-looking The Opus, Omniyat’s mixed-used development project designed by the late architect Zaha Hadid.
It is the only hotel project where Hadid personally designed all of the interiors and exteriors and selected the furniture.
If the renderings are anything to go by, the light-filled, 93-room hotel will feature the award-winning British-Iraqi architect’s signature curvilinear designs; we’re curious to see how the trailblazing architect’s play on the concepts of opacity and transparency, which gave The Opus its carved central void, extends to the hotel’s interiors.
ME Dubai willl have 93 rooms and suites across 19 floors, an ultra-luxurious ‘Suite ME’ and 98 serviced apartments – both hotel guests and residents can avail of the personalised Aura service. The hotel will have a staggering 15 restaurants, including contemporary Japanese restaurant ROKA, created by Zuma’s founder Rainer Beck. The Opus also includes commercial office space, F&B outlets and nightclubs that are separate from the hotel.
9. Mandarin Oriental Jumeirah Beach
The celebrity-loved hotel brand (Liam Neeson and Dev Patel are fans) is finally making its debut on Dubai’s hotel scene this year when the Mandarin Oriental Jumeirah launched in late 2018. And it promises exclusive features that will garner it more rich and famous fans – one of the hotel’s four restaurants will include a pier-top restaurant that will allow direct docking facilities for private yachts and its 255 luxurious guestrooms and suites also include eight over-the-water villas accessible by a private bridge. The hotel will also have a signature spa, outdoor pool, fitness centre, and a dedicated beach club. A second property will open in 2020 in Downtown Dubai.
10. Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Waterfront
The Radisson Blu Hotel’s launch is harbinger of how the canal waterfront around Business Bay area is transforming into an in-demand address – legendary Cannes nightclub Gotha’s Dubai outpost is one of the hotel’s highlights. The area is experiencing a construction boom in the run-up to Expo 2020, with two IHG hotels, the Crowne Plaza Business Bay and the InterContinental Residence Suites Dubai Business Bay, set to open in the area in 2019 and later.
The Radisson Blu’s 432 rooms will all overlook the Dubai Water Canal or Burj Khalifa. F&B outlets will include Makar, a Scottish bar and FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar, whose outdoor terrace will overlook Burj Khalifa. The hotel will also have a pool, spa and a 1000 sqm meeting and conference facilities.