The big interview: Abdullah Al Abdooli, CEO, Marjan

by | 28 Sep 2022 | Interview, People

Marjan, the leading master developer for freehold land in the UAE’s most northerly Emirate, Ras Al Khaimah, has an ambitious plan to attract another 20,000 hotel keys to the region in the next few years. So how will the government entity achieve this?

TOPHOTELNEWS caught up with CEO, Abdullah Al Abdooli, to see what makes the Emirate an enticing development prospect.

Visionary leadership

Marjan particularly focuses its efforts on Al Marjan island, a man-made archipelago in the Persian Gulf comprising four land masses across 2.7 million sq m. According to Al Abdooli: “Al Marjan Island is attracting a lot of hospitality brands to Ras Al Khaimah because of the offering we have. We are not the only waterfront development in the region but we are blessed with the vision of our leadership. They have a clear and direct mandate to expand the tourism industry. All government entities are working together in an ecosystem that makes the product attractive for investors.”

He believes that the Emirate as a whole appeals to visitors as it features a variety of landscapes including beaches, the desert and mountains.

Al Abdooli outlined: “The Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority has a strategy to reach 3 million visitors by 2025 – today we are at almost 1 million. To achieve that tripling, the Emirate requires at least 20,000 hotel keys to be developed over the next few years.”

Investment incentives

To entice hotel groups and investors to help the region reach its targets, Marjan can offer freehold plots to third party investors and developers which are registered under any name or holding structure they prefer – personal or corporate. Al Abdooli further explained: “There is zero corporate tax here, so companies can have full repatriation of capital and earnings gained from the property. We also offer golden residence visas to make us attractive for those who are considering making UAE home.”

Marjan has a variety of services available, as Al Abdooli detailed: “We offer a business opportunity for all international developers, investors and institutional funds. Either we offer them a plot and they do their own design or we assist them in development management, taking all the risk of construction and design, and delivering them a turnkey solution. Our hospitality products achieve great internal rates of return and occupancy is more than 90% year-round.”

Activity advice

This project enabling can permeate down to the hotel supply chain side of things, according to Al Abdooli: “We don’t dictate which suppliers to use, we advise project parties on getting the right contractors and suppliers. We know how to manage things in a competitive way. There are local companies we prefer to use, like RAK Porcelain, but we don’t dictate it because it’s an open market and every hotel brand has its own suppliers.”

For hotel groups, he added: “We can sit with hotel operators and understand where they are looking to be positioned in the Emirate, work out the right size hotel for them and model financial feasibility. We agree that on principle with the operator then we can take the opportunity to investors and developers who would like to be associated with the brand.”

Positive pipeline

On Al Marjan island, the master developer has already worked with major hotel groups including Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International, with the island’s current portfolio standing at 3,000 rooms. Marjan is aiming to reach 8,000 keys on the island in the next few years, and it’s likely to achieve that target as there are already more than 3,500 keys in the Al Marjan pipeline.

Marjan is currently developing properties including the 1,000-room Wynn Resort Al Marjan Island, due for completion in Q1 2026; and Rove Al Marjan Island, bringing 450 keys online in Q3 2024. Al Abdooli also reported a longstanding relationship with Accor, typified in the recent completion of Movenpick Resort Al Marjan Island, opening 418 rooms in a beachfront location.

United Emirates

The developer is also working with fellow Emirates to bring further hospitality properties to the island. This month, Abu Dhabi National Hotels acquired a prime plot to develop a $272 million luxury resort with 1,000 rooms, spread over 1 million sq ft.

This follows last October’s deal with Dubai Investments to acquire land to develop a dynamic mixed-use beachfront residential, beach resort and lifestyle destination with views of the Arabian Gulf. Al Abdooli emphasised: “Ras Al Khaimah is not in competition with Abu Dhabi and Dubai – their success is our success. 64% of our guests come from UAE, we are known as the staycation destination in the region.

“We are well known for our experiences – we’re not the busiest city but our city has its own charm and lifestyle. We complement Abu Dhabi and Dubai, which is what makes us so successful. We are not the cheapest destination in the region but we are known for value for money.”

Future targets

In terms of hotel segments, Al Abdooli is adamant that for both Al Marjan and the wider Ras Al Khaimah, hospitality sites are not limited to solely luxury. “All concepts are already in place in the Emirate and our goal is to have a place for everyone. The leisure segment will continue, as our beach will always be in demand, and our average stay is seven to 10 days. But we will be looking towards all types of segmentations, as local and international visitors are looking for an experience.”

He concluded: “We are driven by quality, it’s not about the quantity of hotel sites in our region, but the experience and quality of developers we want to attract. We want to provide something for everyone year-round which means we need to target markets including India, Europe, Africa and the US. Everyone has their own loyal brand and customers and we need to target those in one place. In the next few years we want to target great developers and great companies who develop great products.”

Many TOPHOTELNEWS articles draw on exclusive information from the TOPHOTELPROJECTS construction database. This subscription-based product includes details of thousands of hotel projects around the world, along with the key decision-makers behind them. Please note, our data may differ from records held by other organisations. Generally, the database focuses on four- and five-star schemes of significant scale; tracks projects in either the vision, pre-planning, planning, under-construction, pre-opening or newly opened phase; and covers newbuilds, extensions, refurbishments and conversions.

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