In late July it was confirmed Aldar Properties – one of the largest property developers in the Middle East – had selected Viceroy Hotel Group to manage its flagship Yas Hotel.
Under the terms of the deal, Viceroy assumed immediate control of the property, marking the departure of Aldar from the hotel management sector, with Yas the last of eight properties to be handed over to external operators.
The choice of Viceroy surprised few.
Yas will be the first property managed outside the Americas by the US-based Viceroy, which is 50 per cent owned by Mubadala Development, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi government.
Viceroy is also slated to operate a 250-room hotel, the Viceroy Abu Dhabi, planned for Sowwah Island, the new financial district developed by Mubadala.
Here Breaking Travel News catches up with Anton Bawab, senior vice president, corporate strategy and operations, Viceroy Hotel Group, to discuss what is next for the property – already considered to be the World’s Leading Hotel by the World Travel Awards.
Breaking Travel News: The Yas Marina Hotel opened as recently as 2009 under the guidance of Aldar Properties. Could you briefly talk us through the circumstances behind the change of management?
Anton Bawab: As owner and operator since 2009, Aldar decided to select a renowned international operator to take the hotel forward.
They have selected Viceroy after a running an operator selection process because of the brands strong record of strong financial performance and experience as a successful hotel and resort operator.
BTN: Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi – as it will be known – is the first project for the group in the Middle East. What new challenges are you expecting as you move in the region and how do you hope to overcome them?
AB: We opened our Abu Dhabi office in 2008 and have been focused on growing the portfolio in that region since then.
Additionally, we have had sales presence in Europe for several years and the GCC for the past few.
There has been a strong presence for Viceroy in the area promoting our brand and portfolio.
The Yas has established itself as an iconic resort in the region which is what initially intrigued us.
We have found the various current offerings and amenities to be a remarkable opportunity for us to add our brand elements and bring it to a Viceroy level of service.
Along with the Viceroy Maldives opening in the autumn we will have significant presence in the region
Yas is already considered one of the best hotels in the Middle East
BTN: Is the first stage of an expansion into the Middle East for Viceroy? Do you have any other properties in your sights?
AB: The Yas is our initial launch into the Middle East market.
It is a region we have been focused on for some time and we are thrilled to put the brand name on this extraordinary resort.
This is part of Viceroy’s long term plan to expand its luxury hotel portfolio into the region. This fall we are opening Viceroy Maldives and will soon be announcing another project in the area.
BTN: Do you have any development plans for Yas Viceroy Hotel itself? How do you hope to improve what is already considered one of the best properties in the Middle East?
AB: We are considering a number of physical enhancements to the property, including the addition of a kids club and expanding the property’s event and conference facilities. We will also re-conceptualize some of the restaurants and lounges.
We will be happy to share further details once those have been confirmed.
BTN: Will consumers notice any changes at the Yas Hotel under its new management?
AB: The guests will continue to experience a five-star level of service at the property.
They will also see a number of noticeable changes, starting from the reservations process, all the way to enhanced programming and entertainment offering at the property, all that is in addition to the physical enhancements our guests will see at the hotel.
Over the course of the next few months, the guests will be able to notice the hallmarks of a Viceroy property in place at the YAS Hotel.