An increasing number of companies are looking to develop boutique hotels in the Middle East, but they are likely to face challenges trying to lure guests away from the tower hotels that dominate the region.

Armani Hotel Dubai
Armani Hotel Dubai

Boutique hotels are not abundant in the Middle East; in fact they are positively rare. However, a few hotel companies have recently launched their boutique hotels in the region while others such as InterContinental Hotels Group have said they are keen to bring their boutique brands to the Middle East in the near future.

One of the challenges that these companies will find in launching their boutique brands is that this region ‘remains at the stage where it is mainly impressed by large chain hotels,’ says Guy Wilkinson, managing partner at Viability Management Consultants.

And those that have ventured into the boutique hotel market in the region, offering an alternative to the giant and often generic hotels, haven’t always met success. “This was signalled by the unfortunate closure of La Maison D’Hotes in Dubai a few years back, which was essentially the city’s first small, owner-operated, design-focused boutique hotel,” Wilkinson asserted.

“It was created most attractively from three villas in Jumeirah by two French interior designers, and represented a real alternative to the ubiquitous tower hotels on Sheikh Zayed Road for those searching for a more personalised lodging experience. Then it was unceremoniously closed down by the authorities after a new law made it illegal to run a guest house in a residential area. However, it is much missed.”

Boutique hotels crop up across the region

Certainly the Gulf has seen a minimal number boutique hotels developed to date, but examples are popping up in certain locations. “The prime example is of course the Armani Hotel in the Burj Khalifa, which appears to have filled a glamourous and exclusive top-end niche in the market,” Wilkinson said. “Starwood’s five-star W in Doha and three-star Aloft in Abu Dhabi have struck chords with both local residents and international travellers who are seeking a designer hotel experience.”