An island of one’s own: Hotel development on the Northern Emirates’ first man-made island is progressing

In a project that is expected to add 21 km of beaches and 2.7m sq metres of prime real estate to Ras Al Khaimah’s already existing 64 km of natural beaches, Al Marjan Island is central to the government’s strategy of developing the emirate as a destination for “affordable luxury”. Al Marjan Island is the UAE’s fourth man-made island complex and the first in the Northern Emirates.

Initially assigned to Rakeen, a government-backed developer, there was high demand for property on the island. However, the project has seen some delays due to a tightening of finance and subdued investor activity in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008-09; there have also been a number of issues with connecting the projects with basic public utilities including water, electricity and sewage treatment plants. Development of Al Marjan Island is now being managed by the Al Hamra Group, and a number of residential properties and hotels are at various stages of construction.

Construction

Al Marjan Island is a cluster of four man-made islands connected by a peninsula extending some 4.5 km into the sea. The land reclamation phase was completed in 2009, and construction has begun on a number of developments. According to Rakeen, “Al Marjan Island’s dredging, reclamation and rock revetment works utilised modern techniques such as surface filling with coarse earth material, underwater sand pumping and deep sea sand quarry outsourcing instead of ‘hostile dredging’.”

According to the original plan, each island will serve a different purpose and clientele. Island one and the peninsula will serve as the gateway to the other islands, with major commercial and community spaces, and island two will be largely residential in nature. Island three was meant to be focused on entertainment, although this is currently under review, and island four will house a number of major hotels and resorts.

Hotels

The RAK Tourism Development Authority is building the emirate’s biggest luxury hotel and resort complex on Al Marjan Island. The government has allocated Dh300m ($81.7m), or 50% of its tourism development budget, to build the Bab Al Bahr Resort. The RAK Hospitality Group recently signed a deal appointing Rixos Hotels to manage the 657-room resort in 2012. The project includes leisure facilities – including a golf course, gardens, beaches and restaurants – and is due to open in early 2014.

Hilton Worldwide, one of the largest international hotel chains present in the market, is adding to its portfolio of local hotels with the DoubleTree Resort on Al Marjan Island. The hotel is expected to open in 2014, and will have a total of 484 rooms, including 45 luxury chalets that will be located on the resort’s private beach. The resort will be one of the first hotels to open on the peninsula that connects the islands to mainland RAK.

The Bin Majid Group and InterContinental Hotels Group are also opening new hotels on the island. Bin Majid’s Santorini hotel will have a total of 265 rooms and suites, while InterContinental Hotels Group is developing the 442-room Crowne Plaza Resort.

Al Marjan Island is an ambitious project that looks set to redefine RAK’s real estate market in the medium to long term. The development is a core part of the government’s strategy to diversify the economy into new sectors. The project seeks to establish RAK as a destination for affordable luxury and is likely to provide momentum to the sector going forward. Current & planned hotels, Al Marjan Island Current & planned hotels, Al Marjan Island

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The Report: Ras Al Khaimah 2013

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