My Terrible Luck Reviewing New Hotels In The UAE…

Filed Under: Hotels

I end up passing through the UAE quite a bit, given that it’s a hub for Emirates and Etihad. On the surface it’s also a great hotel market, as there are lots of reasonably priced luxury hotels. If you visit in summer you can even stay at an incredible five star hotel for the same price you’d pay for a roadside Holiday Inn in the US.

It seems to me like there’s way more hotel capacity than needed in the country. At best, they’re preparing for EXPO 2020, and at worst hotels seem to be built as unsustainable vanity projects.

When I travel to the UAE I try to review new hotels. Not brand new ones (like, opening week, or anything) but rather hotels that have opened within the past several months, to see what these hotels have to offer. My goal is to review these so that they’re useful long-term resources for those into points hotels who are looking to visit as well.

Well, I sort of feel like I’m cursed, because hotels in the UAE can’t seem to stay open for any substantial amount of time without major changes. For example…

Last January I reviewed the St. Regis Dubai Polo Club, which shortly thereafter was rebranded as the Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club.

In 2017 I reviewed the W Dubai Al Habtoor City, which shortly thereafter was rebranded as the V Hotel Dubai (I kid you not).

In 2017 I also reviewed the St. Regis Dubai Al Habtoor City, which shortly thereafter was rebranded as the Habtoor Palace.

I’m now headed back to the UAE briefly, and am having similar challenges with deciding on a hotel:

So I’m not sure if the UAE hotel market is just that poorly thought out, if I’m cursed and bring bad luck to hotels, or a little bit of both. But I feel like every time I book or stay at a hotel in the UAE, it’s rebranded within weeks or months…

  1. Do these properties change that much after rebranding? I think the reviews would still be useful.

  2. Would suggest you try The Oberoi Dubai this time around. They also have a resort property outside Dubai, Al Zorah Resort in Ajman. Both are very very good.

  3. Maybe if they relaxed their visa requirements a bit with more countries like a visa-on-arrival or visa-free for 7 or 15 or 30 days to encourage and entice more vacationing tourists to make their gateway cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi a more attractive long layover destination, it will most likely help make their hotel market more sustainable/viable for the long term.

  4. How about Jumeirah Etihad Palace in Abu Dhabi, which is right next door to that mysterious Grand Hyatt?

  5. Lucky, it suddenly struck me to ask you if you ever run into familiar crew by pure chance, without prior arrangement? Just curious.

  6. A friend writes of Dubai: “Hotels are one of the main investment tools of UAE sheiks. If one is not yielding as much profit as expected, they’ll quickly move on to another, or something else. Also, the current economic downturn is spooking a lot of investors in the area.”

  7. Best hotel in Dubai, manzil downtown hotel on sh Mohammed Bin Rashed Boulevard, professional and v friendly staff, unique rooms design and exellent breakfast buffet.

  8. Lucky. What is your favorite marriott property in Dubai? It’ll be my first visit on a 24hr layover and wanted your opinion. Thanks!

  9. A potential new business model for Lucky – collecting fees from UAE hotels just for staying away from them. A 2-in-1 VIP pack: No stay and no mention 🙂

  10. Oliver, which passport you have? Who needs a visa for UAE? I’ve had visa-free acess for the past 6 years… Judging by your name, you should have visa-free for 30/60/90 days…

  11. Hi Ben,

    All the SPG properties you stayed at were owned by the Habtoor family. They switched to Hilton during the Marriott / SPG merger. There are more than worthy arrivals to the Marriott family – Viceroy Yas is now Marriott linked, Bvlgari, Aloft and W at the Palm… But in all honesty, go to desert resorts. If you fly in on Emirates or Etihad, you’ll have a free chauffer ride. Then again, where is your review of Burj Al Arab, The One and Only, Armani Hotel, Grosvenor House….

  12. Would love a review of Yas Hotel – Autograph or W, who cares? – as I’m considering staying there later this year. Even if it rebrands, they’re not going to replace the entire staff so I feel a review of it would still have merit.

  13. Hey Ben – I just thought of something: I had some Etihad miles, left over from a cancelled trip, that were about to expire, and used them for a stay at Burj Al Arab. It wasn’t the world’s greatest use of miles, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It was certainly better than using Ultimate Rewards points, even with the 1.5 cents/point I get with the Sapphire Reserve. Maybe you could finally do the full Burj Al Arab review that you’ve been reluctant to do because of price.

    BTW – in the process of figuring out what to do with those expiring miles, I found that, OCCASIONALLY, using Etihad miles — transferred from Amex — requires fewer points than if I used the hotel chain’s program. They are certainly a way to use miles to stay in hotels — like Burj al Arab — that are otherwise not available using points.

  14. Stayed at the Yas 4 weeks ago. We came off a cruise and our flight did not leave for 18 hours so used points. They gave us an early check in and upgraded to a very nice suite overlooking the track where cycling was taking place. Three different free shuttles run all day from hotel to the mall,and the beach and other hotels.Mgr sent up fruit basket late in day. Ate at Italian restaurant in hotel which was good (not excellent). We left a wake up request with front desk and they called at appropriate time. I was so dozy that I failed to put phone back on base. Three minutes later a bellman was ringing the door bell to make sure we had not gone back to sleep.Worst part of the stay was having to check out at midnight to head to airport. Highly recommend it and the location

  15. Ben

    The three hotels you mentioned are all owned by Habtoor Group and management passed from Mariott to Hilton. Hence the rebranding. It isn’t reflective of a UAE market in general.

  16. I did the unthinkable (for this blog) in February and stayed at a hotel where the “points” I earned don’t really do me much good – the recently renovated Address Hotel at the Dubai Mall. (You earn Emaar points but they aren’t that useful to an occasional visitor to the UAE.) I wanted the location which to me is perfect for a non-beach property – walk through Bloomingdales directly to the Dubai Mall and the Metro (albeit after a longish walk). Stayed on the Club floor which had excellent food presentations – enough for a full meal in the evening, not just appetizers – and very large and well-appointed rooms, if a bit bland for my taste. The service was impeccable from beginning to end, everyone from the valets to the club lounge concierges to the waiters in Karat off the main lobby. Cannot recommend it highly enough, and a reminder to me that stepping outside the Marriott-Hilton-Hyatt echo chamber can be really refreshing on occasion.

  17. I stayed at the Rosewood Abu Dhabi recently and had a fantastic stay. Not a points hotel, but you can book with Amex FHR and get some good benefits that way. It’s a beautiful property and the service was exceptional.

  18. Why in the world would you spend time in the UAE?!
    So many better places to live.

    And enjoy.

  19. I’m not sure your story has credit. It’s a little misleading as Al Habtoor de-flagged the polo club hotel and the 3 pack ( Westin, St Regis and W from managed MARRIOTT to franchised Hilton hotels but these 3 hotels are all the same location and joined in with many shared facilities so of course with 1 change, comes major change but it’s not a frequent.
    Also, the Yas hotel was changed from Viceroy to MARRIOTT. It will be a W after it has been renovated to be one so in the meantime it operates as the Yas Hotel (autograph collection) until it is made a W.

  20. Ben, like the guy mentioned above and like Ive said before, you should review the recently renovated Jumeirah Beach Hotel. Very popular oceanfront resort, with a prime view of the Burj Al Arab, will definitely bring clicks and interest from outsiders looking to stay there.

  21. @Amy the Five Palm is extremely hot right now, great nightlife, very insta worthy hotel. Its on my list.

  22. @Amy just to clear things up, Five Palm Jumeirah and the Jumeirah Beach Hotel are completely different hotels. The wave-shaped like hotel is the JBH, in front of the Burj. The Five Palm is the one with the funky triangular shaped terraces on the Palm.

  23. Stay at Ceasars Bluewaters or the new Mandarin Oriental – I’d love to see your thoughts!

  24. Watch yourself in the UAE. Do not say anything controversial . They seem to be arresting a foreigner every week for some misdemeanor that in US or Europe would not be a problem. I do not like UAE any more and as someone said in this blog, there are lots of excellent hotels elsewhere

  25. Why not leave reviews of hotels in the UAE to those of us, who live here and stay at these hotels every weekend? :)))

  26. In some situations, it’s better to earn points (by booking a superior non-points hotel with a card that had a hotel spend bonus category) than redeem points

  27. Hi Ben,

    Thanks for the interesting take on the market. Allow me to add some context for readers.

    The three properties you mentioned in Dubai,
    St Regis polo, St Regis Dubai, and W Dubai were all owned by the same owner Al Habtoor who had a contract with Starwood. When Marriott bought Starwood it came with contractual changes that made no sense in an increasingly competitive market.

    Furthermore, they didn’t just rename the hotels, they reflagged it as Hilton properties (save for the polo resort)

    The W is now a Curio Collection, the Habtoor Palace is a reinvigoration of the LXR by Hilton Brand.

    The Yas Island Hotel Autograph collection was previously a Viceroy, which has completely left the UAE market and the autograph is a placeholder until renovations are completed, W is an iconic brand they will certainly stamp their print the right way.

    Hope this context explains a bit to readers new to the UAE or planning a visit. It’s a dynamic city that changes and grows with the tides and is not a sign of anything less or more.

  28. Billy Bob , I can believe you but it’s not gonna be for the same prize you pay for 8 times a week UAE , but a lot more , believe me …

  29. Ben, it looks like the Grand Hyatt is accepting reservations again?! Who knows what’s going on.

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