Interview: Luxury Côte D'Azur resort to open on Dubai's World Islands in Q4

The Heart of Europe's developer says the resort will open as planned before the end of 2020

  
The Côte D’Azur resort on Dubai’s famous World Island.

The Côte D’Azur resort on Dubai’s famous World Island.

Image courtesy Kleindienst Group

The Côte D’Azur resort on Dubai’s famous World Island project is to open on schedule in the fourth quarter of 2020 despite a climate of uncertainty for the global hospitality industry.

Developed by Kleindienst Group as part of the $5-billion Heart of Europe project, the resort is expecting the 893-key four-hotel complex to attract a 50-50 split of UAE residents and foreign guests. This scenario has been part of a masterplan stretching as far back as 2008, according to the group's chairman, Josef Kleindeinst.

Kleindienst said the Côte D’Azur resort, which will be next to the much-discussed 1km long Rainy Street, a piped water construction which will provide rain on demand to allow cooler outdoor conditions for visitors, will open on schedule as planned. The opening is to go ahead despite the fact that it follows a period in which the emirate’s hospitality sector has been heavily impacted by travel restrictions brought about by the global pandemic.

“We have no other choice. Life needs to continue; we cannot get stuck for too long in any situation. Everything has a solution,” said Kleindienst.

Josef Kleindeinst, Chairman Kleindienst Group.

Kleindienst Group announced this week that Côte D’Azur, which comprises four boutique hotels, was on fast track towards its final stages, with elevations complete and only interior works remaining before its opening date.

While other workplaces and construction sites may have struggled with continuity through the challenges of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, the Heart of Europe forged ahead as planned, as the company took the decision to enforce their own island-based lockdown.

Labourers, architects and other employees, including Mr Kleindienst himself, were resident on site and did not leave for a period of four months to prevent the virus being transported into the project from mainland Dubai or elsewhere.

“We decided to put our project under total lockdown, with the entire construction team of 1200 people. We asked them: ‘You want to stay here? You stay. You want to go out? You go out, but you don’t come back.’”

Kleindienst likened this approach, and subsequent success in keeping Covid-19 out, to New Zealand’s success in tackling the virus. The country has received worldwide praise for achieving no local transmissions of the virus for 102 days straight, although new cases were reported in New Zealand as of August 11. 

The developer said he trusts the UAE government’s strategy to deal with the virus effectively, although it remains to be seen which country will be seen to have tackled the pandemic the most efficiently in the coming years, he said.

When the resort opens, it will enjoy a degree of isolation from the mainland in that it is only accessible by boat from a marina in Dubai - only those staying will be keen to visit the island. This is a factor that will continue to protect it should there be further outbreaks of the virus, Kleindienst said.

The increasing accessibility of COVID-19 testing across the UAE, with laser-based tests now available for 50 dirhams, will help stop the virus entering the resort, he said, with one possible strategy being to test visitors before they board boats to the island.

It is possible that, as it targets a high proportion of UAE-based guests, Côte D’Azur is opening up at the perfect time. Kleindienst said that from the beginning, the company had targeted UAE residents as being 50 percent of its customers. And while foreign travel restrictions have been scaled back since the height of the lockdown period for residents, many have chosen not to travel at all during the summer period, preferring to book breaks in UAE-based hotels, a scenario that could continue as countries around the world battle the virus and residents choose to spend their vacations closer to home. 

Kleindienst has an upbeat outlook, not just for the future of the Heart of Europe, but for Dubai in general, which he describes as ‘the best horse in the race’ when it comes to real estate development. Heart of Europe was seed funded by Kleindienst Group’s own real estate fund, based in Luxembourg, and by investors, who are primarily from the UAE, the GCC, the wider MENA region and from Europe,  who will own 50 percent when the entire 4000 unit Heart of Europe project is completed.

The group’s real investment strategy had changed over the years, from being diversified across 12 countries in 2008, he said. More investments have been made into Dubai since the financial crisis.

“Real estate is not a sprint, it is an endurance race,” he said. “We believe we have the best horse in the race, and this one is still young.”

(Reporting by Imogen Lillywhite; editing by Seban Scaria)

(imogen.lillywhite@refintiv.com)

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© ZAWYA 2020

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