Turkish luxury hotel and resort chain Rixos is making its first move into the GCC with the development of a property on Dubai's Palm Jumeirah.
It will offer some specific Turkish touches including a hammam spa and Ottoman cuisine.
The group's up-market hotel concept was launched in 2000 in Antalya, Turkey, by businessman Fettah Tamince. Rixos now runs nine luxury hotels in Turkey, Croatia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan and has a number of projects on the horizon.
In an exclusive interview, Chairman Tamince tells Emirates Business what attracted him to the Gulf and reveals his future expansion plans.
Why did you decide to expand your chain into Dubai?
We are the only hotel and resort brand in Turkey that has been expanding outside the country over the past four years. We have positioned our brand at the top level in each country we have entered based on average room rate, occupancy, customer satisfaction and environmental considerations. We have been watching Dubai and have seen how it has attracted the best brands, the best talent and the best clients. Dubai is among the best cities worldwide in terms of hospitality and has created an atmosphere of openness and flexibility that encourages talent and businesses to come here. Every hotel brand in the world is fighting for opportunities in Dubai and elsewhere in the UAE. Dubai will be our first location in the Middle East.
When will the Dubai hotel and resort open and what particular challenges are you facing?
We will start construction on the Palm Jumeirah in May and aim to be open by the end of the year. Due to shortage of staff in Dubai you have to bring people in from abroad as well as employ UAE nationals. Our staff will include 30 different nationalities.
How will Rixos differ from its competitors in the UAE and the region?
We are already successful in the resorts business and I believe this experience will help us. Dubai is attracting people who stay for a limited period of time but spend more – it is a luxury destination for certain segments rather than a mass-market destination. During a short stay business people look for other attractions. We need to offer the best environment, entertainment, service and food and beverage facilities. The Rixos Royal Spa will include a Turkish bath or hammam, which is among the most successful and oldest spa concepts in the world. We have turned hammam into more than a place for massage and washing – our spa is a place where people can meet and gather socially. We will provide all the necessary treatments related to hammam. And we are introducing something new and special to the market – the Ottoman kitchen. Cuisine and hospitality inspired us in the past is a big asset for us.
Do you think expansion of business into the UAE will strengthen business relations between the country and region and Turkey?
Turkey is full of opportunities for foreign investors. Its tourism and hospitality industry has flourished over the past 15 years and its success is opening up more opportunities for bilateral co-operation based on mutual interest, benefit and respect. We have only talked about the hospitality sector but Turkey is a leader in construction and a major exporter of a variety of goods. That is why the GCC is one of the most important places for us to be. Dubai is a place where you compete with. And Turkey and the GCC have much in common in terms of culture, tradition and the way of life.
What other projects are you planning in the UAE and the GCC?
We are going to open another two hotels in Dubai and are discussing opportunities in Abu Dhabi – things are booming there and the islands are a real asset. The way the UAE is promoting itself and trying to diversify is creating business opportunities. Negotiations are in progress in other GCC countries such as Bahrain and Oman. I have moved here with my family to make our expansion really happen and to be as competitive as possible. All our top teams are here.
Has the dollar's fluctuation affected your business and what do you think about the willingness of GCC hotels to accept other currencies to settle their customers' bills?
The way the economy and the hospitality sector have been booming balances things out – increased revenues cover the higher costs and maintain reasonable profit margins. In countries where we operate, we use a selection of currencies and whether customers want to pay in dirham, dollar or euro it is all fine.
Chairman, Rixos Hotels and Resorts Group, Turkey
Fettah Tamince has a wide range of interests around the world in tourism, hotel management, energy, construction and real estate development sectors.
He is focussing on Eastern Europe and the Middle East – specifically Turkey, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Croatia and the UAE.
He established Sembol Construction in Turkey and the company has built 10 luxury hotels and three entertainment and shopping centres, among other projects.
The company is noted for commissioning leading architects, designers and advisers such as Lord Foster, Brian Clark, Andrew Pfeiffer, Atkins, Buro Happold and Studio Dinnebier.
Tamince graduated from Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich in economics and German literature and is fluent in four languages – Turkish, English, Russian and German. He is married with three children.