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Curtain is raised on Dubai’s latest cinema-themed hotel

Majid Al Futtaim unveils the new Aloft hotel in Deira this week

Image Credit: Supplied
Officials at the official inauguration of the Aloft City Centre Deira.
Gulf News

Dubai: Dubai-based Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) has opened its latest hotel in the emirate, partnering with Marriott International for a cinema-themed, four-star property attached to City Centre Deira.

Aloft, the experimental Marriott brand chosen to operate the hotel, will feature an indoor and outdoor cinema, in addition to four suites inspired by film motifs, including Hollywood, Bollywood, secret agents and superheroes.

MAF Hotels chief executive Jalil Mekouar said the company had “packed” its 13th property with technology, and was glad to be partnering with sister company Vox Cinemas, also owned by MAF, to “theme, but not over-theme, the hotel”.

Mekouar said that the decision to give the hotel a cinematic flavour was a way of “de-risking” the company’s investment. With the market facing downward pressure due to the large number of new hotels opening, the CEO said it was “essential and critical that hotel owners develop hotels that create a niche and create a point of differentiation.”

MAF’s hotels continue to outperform their rivals by 20-25 per cent despite the citywide downturn, according to the company. New hotels would need a “unique selling proposition, something different” in order to compete, Mekouar added.

Aloft City Centre Deira features a licensed indoor cinema and an outdoor cinema next to the pool and bar. This, in addition to a lively social scene within the hotel, created a “very differentiated” product.

“We thought about how we could add that additional layer of differentiation. Cinema came to mind, because we control that so it’s much easier, and we felt it was a great way to attract people to this part of town.”

He said that going to the cinema was an activity resistant to the lengthy, sweltering summers Gulf countries face. Cinemas are seeing plenty of action in the region, according to research by consultants PriceWaterhouseCooper (PwC), with box office revenues exceeding $500 million (Dh1.83 billion) in 2017.

“There is a strong growth pipeline of new cinemas in the region, primarily driven by the opening of Saudi Arabian market,” said PWC.

The opening of the hotel was attended by senior figures from MAF, Marriott, and the Dubai Government, including Alain Bejjani, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Holding, Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott International, and Issam Kazim, CEO of Dubai Tourism.

Mekouar said that the multibillion dirham rejuvenation work taking place throughout Deira, led by Dubai Government, had been factored into the hotel’s planning.

“We wanted to be a little bit ahead of the pack in that regards,” he said. “We wanted to be part of that reviving of Deira. This is where it all started, including for Majid Al Futtaim. So there’s an emotional connection here.”

The government’s enrichment project is set to completely revamp much of Deira’s waterfront area with trading hubs, hotels, parks, plazas, and add an extension to the famous souk.

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