Exclusive interview with Mohammed Al Habtoor, Vice Chairman & CEO of Al Habtoor Group

The Al Habtoor Group has grown with the United Arab Emirates. What started out as a small engineering firm in 1970, is today one of the region’s largest and most respected conglomerates with interests in the hospitality, automotive, car leasing, real estate, education and publishing sectors.

Just as the name of the UAE has become synonymous with trade and enterprise all over the world, the name of the Al Habtoor Group has also become synonymous with dynamic growth, evidenced by its commitment to develop and grow businesses in multiple sectors.

Full Interview:

Photo credit: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Mohammed Al Habtoor, Vice Chairman & CEO, Al Habtoor Group

Although the Al Habtoor Group began as an engineering firm, it is now a major player in the hospitality industry. What made the group decide to invest in hotels and the resorts? 

Our motto is ‘Growing with the UAE’ and the Al Habtoor Group has done just that. Our first hotel, the original Metropolitan was very popular. Demand was outstripping capacity so we knew that if we if didn’t expand our hospitality portfolio then someone else would. Today we hold a diverse portfolio. Our units include Hositality, Real Estate, Automotive, Car Leasing and Education. The same applies in our Hospitality portfolio. Each hotel has a distinct personality that appeals to different markets; from the super luxury St. Regis brands and Waldorf Astoria, through to our home-grown brands like the Metropolitan Dubai. We cater to everyone’s needs. Our hospitality interest includes seven hotels in Dubai, and seven internationally; in the US, UK, Austria, Hungary and Lebanon.

 

What made Al Habtoor Group want to combine five-star hotels and luxury residential towers into one multi-use development?

The plot is very unique. It is located on Sheikh Zayed Road – the main artery to everything in the city. In addition, we are fortunate that the newly-opened Dubai Water Canal was built right next to Al Habtoor City. This means that visitors can access Al Habtoor City by car, boat and even helicopter. When we were considering designs, we wanted to ensure Al Habtoor City had everything under one roof. We have achieved that. It is now a well-known, luxury destinations in terms of the three five-star hotels which provide endless food and beverage options for visitors and guests. It is also home to La Perle by Dragone, the region’s first-ever permanent Las Vegas-style theater, and a state of the art tennis academy. The residents of The Residence Collection have direct access to all of this. Essentially, we upscale what we had there before.

 

How did you decide on a location for Al Habtoor City?

Before embarking on Al Habtoor City the plot was home to our first hotel in Dubai, The Metropolitan, which opened in 1979. The old Metropolitan hotel was one of the first hotels in Dubai. It was built even before the access road. In 1985, we added the Metroplex entertainment centre to the plot and in 1998 we built a Habtoor Residences. The land has always been multi-purpose from the early days and was a landmark development long before Al Habtoor City existed. We knew we had to move with the times and make way for something bigger and better, and we have surpassed all expectations with Al Habtoor City.

 

What sets the hotels in Al Habtoor City apart from visitors’ other options in Dubai? 

The options set us apart. The Hotel Collection consists of three high-end brand names recognized around the world: The St. Regis Dubai; W Dubai – Al Habtoor City, and The Westin Dubai, Al Habtoor. Each hotel caters to a different clientele. In addition, there are many places a visitor can go do in terms of restaurants and bars. The Leisure Collection is unrivalled in Dubai. It comprises a tennis academy complete with an indoor air-conditioned tennis court and La Perle, a world-class show choreographed exclusively for the City in a purpose-built theatre. We have the biggest garden on Sheikh Zayed Road plus all the benefits from The Dubai Water Canal.

 

What type of guests and residents are you hoping to attract to Al Habtoor City’s hotels and residential towers? 

It is a first-class development with world-class facilities. The hotels cater to a five-star market. Their names speak for themselves. They are recognized brand-names all over the world. As for The Residence Collection, we have created an urban development with exceptional facilities and enviable views of Dubai. Residents can see out into the Arabian Gulf, the city skyline, or into the desert as far as the eye can see. They have access to all the luxuries the hotels offer, plus their very own resort-style pool deck, fully-fitted gyms and the tennis academy. The apartments range from one to seven bedrooms so cater to everyone whether they are single professionals of families. Whether they are renting or buying, they are buying into the luxury lifestyle that Al Habtoor City exudes.

 

Do you have any additions for Al Habtoor City (like the Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club and Al Habtoor Tennis Academy that opened in 2017) planned for 2018? 

At Al Habtoor City, the last phase is The Boulevard – a row of shops, restaurants and cafés between the Residence Collection and the hotels. Plus, the RTA recently added a marine stop at Al Habtoor City, which breeds new life into the development. The Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club is complete and is a great addition to our portfolio. We are in the midst of the polo season now. Each year it grows and attracts more attention from around the world. We will continue to build on our success.

 

What are your goals for Al Habtoor City in 2018? 

We have been incredibly active locally and internationally over the past few years. We now have 14 hotels; seven in Dubai and seven internationally. We will focus on what we have for the time being. Having said that, we are always considering development options both at home and abroad. If the right opportunity presents itself we will jump on it.

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