How would you describe Seven Tides International's philosophy or vision for the real estate business? How is this visible in your developments?
ABDULLA BIN SULAYEM: The vision of Seven Tides International is to build unique and iconic projects that stand out in whichever market that we touch.
I'd like to describe Seven Tides as a unique real estate development company. We've established the company in 2004 with a vision to build unique residential units and hotel offerings. We've bought our resorts that we own on the Palm. We thought of everything in terms of the customers’ perspective. So we gave comfort to the residents to leave their units with their bathing suits and walk directly to the beach. That was a very important factor of our design for both of these projects.
If you are in any of our developments, you will notice it right away, but if you are in any other ordinary hotel in the world, you might not know which one is which. That was really important to us. So I can take you hotel by hotel. The first hotel that we've delivered was the Ibn-Battuta Gate Hotel and that is unique in its own way from the building architecture. It is a gate and there is a road that runs underneath the gate to split the development with the offices on the right side of the road and the hotel, 400 rooms with 156 residences, sit parallel to Sheikh Zayed Road.
Oceana Residences is 644 apartments where people enjoy a nice beautiful infinity pool and 325 meter beach with direct access from their buildings onto the podium. So there is this luxury resort lifestyle that they enjoy as part of their home. That has been appreciated really well in the market and we've noticed that looking at the rents that some of the unit rates per square foot are achieving, even during challenging times in the market, some units with the best views still achieve great prices at the peak of the market. So that was a great feeling, knowing that we've designed something that has value and stands out on the Palm.
Our latest development that we've delivered is the Anantara project, in September 2013 and this is a very unique hotel, with a unique concept. People in Dubai, when it comes to a resort, would like the beach, the sun, and the water. So in this project, given the land mass that we have, we've designed something rather special, we went to the extreme by adding water features and some of the rooms have direct access to the lagoons and all the beach villas have their own private pools. So it is something different. It is on the Palm, yes, that's special, but being on the Palm alone is not special enough. You know, you need to build something that is sustainable, you need to create a demand for yourself. That's the main thing that we've created and I'm proud of the things that we've done, this is what we will continue doing.
We as a company have built something unique in Dubai. You see all our projects, they are all different. They are all attractive. If you had to blindfold someone and remove it at any of our developments, they will automatically know where they are because of its grand, unique features. This is who we are, this is our company, and we'll keep growing that way.
What is Seven Tides’ strategy? With so many property developers in the market, what makes Seven Tides stand apart from the crowd?
ABDULLA BIN SULAYEM: Competition is hard, it's very healthy, it pushes people to the limits, to build something different. Our latest development was launched in April 2015, which is the DUKES Oceana hotel apartments and the DUKES Hotel. We started construction, and we've designed something that is very different. We’ll British quintessential luxury from London to Dubai. We've designed something really beautiful in terms of the room design, amenities and hotel facilities. We went through extensive design changes until we reached what we were comfortable with presenting to the market and that reacted really well.
We sold 40 percent in one day. And April 2015 was not one of the best months of the market, especially the property market. That speaks for itself. We also have different schemes where we guarantee returns to stand out from the crowd, to add more to the offering. So you own a unit you can use it for a certain period of the year, and we guarantee you a return. That's how much confidence and how much faith we have in our project for our investors. So, if you want something that is different than what the offering is, if you are just building a normal, residential development with nothing to back it up then it's a competitive market, you will struggle.
Anantara The Palm Dubai Residences is your flagship development. What makes this project so special? How has the market reacted to the offering?
ABDULLA BIN SULAYEM: Anantara The Palm Dubai Residences is definitely our flagship property as part of our portfolio. It is special because of its unique design. You sit here and you feel as if you are somewhere far away, piece of mind, quiet, yet you see the skyline of Dubai. If you want to go back to Dubai, if you are with your family, you want to go shopping, it's only 15—20 minutes’ drive to one of the major shopping malls or to any entertainment that anyone desires.
So that is what makes it different. You can wake up to a resort lifestyle, go work, come back, and still feel like you are on vacation. People ask us why have you designed this development with so many pools, 2km of lagoons, you know, that is hard to maintain, this and that, but it makes it worth it when you have 456 beautiful residences split into two residential buildings plus 293 hotel rooms that enjoy these facilities.
Innovation is very important to the success of the company and to the success of each development. Each development needs to be defined by its own unique features and different offering in the market.
Today this really paid off. We are the only resort that have this amount of pools within the ratio of our land. We are the only resort in Dubai that have over water villas with glass flooring. So there are a lot of unique features to this project. Plus we have a beautiful sunset. We are achieving one of the highest average room rates in the market. We are maintaining one of the highest average occupancy levels in the market.
Having both occupancy and high room rates almost every month being at the top is a big achievement and says a lot about the management of the entire team and also obviously of the end product that we are selling. So it's been well received in the market. Today, the residential units are achieving one of the highest rates per square foot on Palm Jumeirah. Some of the units have reached over a $1000 per square foot, which is really nice. Someone that will pay that premium and really believes in this project says a lot and makes us proud.
How important is innovation to the continued success of Seven Tides?
ABDULLA BIN SULAYEM: Innovation is very important to the success of the company and to the success of each development. Each development needs to be defined by its own unique features and different offering in the market. You need to understand your surrounding developments and what you can provide extra that competitors don't have. You know, the ease of you having access to all the amenities, the comfort of going in and out of your development plus the beautiful views and what facilities you provide.
What are your future goals for Seven Tides? Where do you see the company in 5 years?
ABDULLA BIN SULAYEM: In the next five years, I'd like to see the company operating more and more hotels. As you know we currently operate our own hotel in London, The DUKES London. In October, we'll be operating our second hotel in Dubai, DUKES Dubai located on Palm Jumeirah. And in the next few years I'd like to see the company operating more of its own assets and develop a lot more than what we already have delivered in the market.
What is your outlook for the real estate market in Dubai?
ABDULLA BIN SULAYEM: We have a lot of faith in the Dubai market. The government is very active in ensuring that we are the best in every sector, meaning that our infrastructure is one of the best in the world. When I say infrastructure I mean the airports, the ports, the roads and transportation system, everything the government invested into heavily to put Dubai on par with some of the best cities. And so far, the prices speak for itself. Dubai is now achieving one of the highest average room rates in hotels and one of the highest residential units are being sold here.
So, the city is very active. Regardless of the global financial crisis, the country continued investing a lot in the infrastructure and started a lot of projects since then. The great thing about Dubai is wherever there is a gap, they fill it quickly when there is a need to. And, you know, having the blessing of an active government like that keeps us developers motivated to continue developing more into the Dubai market. The Dubai market to me is one of the safest markets in terms of security of investment, plus value of investment.
The global financial crisis was a global thing and it had affected the world, not only Dubai, but I think Dubai was one of the first places that jumped back into positive figures and we are very confident. To me 2016 is one of my best years for Dubai. Dubai is investing a lot of money in building things that are not available, like the Dubai Parks will be delivered in October this year and that I think is very important for the tourism sector of Dubai. People have more choices of things to do here. Whether they have children, or visiting alone, there are a lot of things to do in Dubai, which is great. It just adds to the whole story.