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RMJM Principal Neil van der Veen was invited to speak at the 9th edition of the Hotelier Summit this week and outlined RMJM’s vision for the industry in the UAE and KSA markets. The annual summit offers a meeting platform for architects, leading hotel owners, operators, developers, interior designers, consultants and service providers in the hospitality industry. RMJM have enjoyed a particularly successful 2016 in the Middle East with a growing hospitality portfolio, the announcement of one of the world’s most iconic new skyscrapers and recognition at the Cityscape Awards.
The huge inflow of tourists expected to arrive in Dubai for the upcoming World Expo 2020 has highlighted the strategic importance of the hospitality market in the Middle East. The expansion that will take place between now and then is seen as crucial to Dubai’s long term success. Similarly, Saudi Arabi – the largest hospitality market and religious tourism centre in the GCC – is set to get a boost with major expansion works being carried out at its two holy mosques in Makkah and Madinah. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are expected to add over 100,000 combined hotel and serviced apartment rooms by 2020. The UAE hospitality sector, meanwhile, is anticipated to reach $9.8 billion by the time the World Expo begins. Clearly, there has never been a more opportune time for a cohesive strategy.
Addressing a packed audience, Neil van der Veen highlighted the importance of the architectural designer in hotel projects. The need for a building to create an experience for the guest and go beyond being well designed is now fundamental. Neil also explained that for hotels, and particularly resort hotels, architecture should form the backdrop to the experience while the furnishings and landscape become the overlay. The fact that, in these instances, architecture has a greater degree of permanence than interior design was used to stress this point.
Neil also expressed the opinion that budget sector hotels in the UAE need to place a greater emphasis on design, suggesting the current climate has enabled hotels to be drawn and built without proper designers. He also argued that with the emergence of new design-orientated brands in this market, the importance of design in the budget hotel sector needs to be brought to the forefront now or operators risk being left behind by their competitors.