Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor held talks with Michael Wale, the new President of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. Wale, who is President for Europe, Africa and Middle East, was accompanied by Guido de Wilde, Senior Vice President of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc.
The meeting took place at the Al Habtoor Group head office on Al Wasl Road on Wednesday March 19, 2014. Also present was Maan Halabi, Executive Director, Al Habtoor Group; Paul Rayner, Advisor to the Chairman, and Ahmed Al Otaiba, Director/Member of the Board.
In his role, Wale directly oversees the operations for almost 250 hotels and resorts in 60 countries. He was appointed to this position in June 2013 and is based at the company’s EAME divisional office in Brussels, Belgium.
It marked the first meeting between Mr. Al Habtoor and Michael Wale. Although, Wale has been with Starwood since 1978, and he has been coming to the region since the early 1980’s.
Michael Wale said it was good to witness how Dubai has evolved since he first started coming to the region. Al Habtoor said the secret to the success of the Gulf was down to focussed hard work.
The Al Habtoor Group and Starwood are teaming up in the Al Habtoor City project, which will incorporate three of Starwood’s premium brands: St. Regis hotel, W hotel and Westin.
Wale said, “Al Habtoor City is a very important project as it will bring two of our brands to Dubai for the first time (St. Regis and W hotel). The development will be made even more prominent as it will sit on the Dubai Water Canal.”
He said that the most important cities for the company right now are New York and Dubai.
Al Habtoor said that Dubai is a highly competitive city with highly trained and skilled people, which has contributed to its success. He pointed out the strength of the partnership between the Al Habtoor Group and Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide. “The cooperation between the Al Habtoor Group and Starwood is excellent,” he said. “We work as one team.”
Wale added, “Partnership between the operator and owner has to be very strong. We are lucky that ours is strong.”
The Al Habtoor Group and Starwood are partners in the historic Le Méridien Budapest, just steps away from the River Danube.
Their new project, located in a prime business location overlooking the Burj Khalifa near the Dubai International Financial Centre and Business Bay areas, is currently in the process of hiring highly skilled staff for the project which will start receiving its first guests in mid-2015.
Wale stressed that Starwood’s priority is on the customer, “We put the guest at the centre of everything Starwood does.”
Al Habtoor City is a unique project. It will incorporate three five star hotels on one plot (St. Regis, W hotel and Westin). The multi-use development will combine three luxury hotels with three residential towers. It will also be home to the first permanent water themed production between Asia and Las Vegas, with a Franco Dragone Entertainment Group production choreographed exclusively for the City. The development will also feature a marina on the Dubai Water Canal, a European-style Boulevard and a tennis academy which will include an air-conditioned court.