What is wasl's strategy for growing its hospitality arm in the lead up to Expo 2020?
HESHAM AL QASSIM: Wasl has always been an investment arm of the Government of Dubai and we always try to fill the gap in the city’s needs. Wasl has supported Dubai's strategy goals. We have developed lots of projects around Dubai. We never have focused on one area, we always try to mitigate the gap of the city needs. We select projects which will add value to the city, either in a hospitality vertical, or real estate, or a mixture development. Whatever that particular place or area require for the public and visitors of Dubai.
The hospitality sector, wasl will add 14 hotel by 2019 and that will add another 4000 rooms to the wasl portfolio, which will take the total number of hospitality rooms in Wasl's portfolio to 10,000 rooms. We're introducing 14 hotels, mid-range hotels, in Dubai which are going to cater for the family hospitality and will convert the right value for money for the visitors to the city.
Wasl is introducing lots of new brands to Dubai: Hyatt Place, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton by Hilton. We are developing the Hampton by Hilton, consisting of 400 rooms, which is going to be the largest in the world. We’re also bringing Elements and Aloft, run by Starwood, and for the first time in the region, we are introducing a luxury brand, Mandarin Oriental, and that's one of the most exciting projects for me because to going to be first time Mandarin is in the UAE.
How does wasl's strategy support the growth of the family tourism segment that forms one of the pillars of Dubai's Capital of Islamic Economy initiative?
HESHAM AL QASSIM: We're contributing to family tourism. Wasl is developing lots of community centres, which are developed for family tourism in Dubai and supporting the visitors and the residents of that particular place. So we are developing lots of community centres in different places of Dubai. Plus, we are also developing lots of mid-range hotels which is built for the family tourism.
What is wasl’s involvement in building much needed affordable housing?
HESHAM AL QASSIM: One of the main initiatives for Wasl is to provide the market with affordable housing. From 2007, we have always provided the market with affordable housing and that is really bridging the gap of the market need in Dubai. Wasl has introduced more than 7000 units in the affordable housing category.
We always try to fill the gap in the city’s needs.
Today, we have received our last project in the affordable housing segment, consist of 1300 rooms. It's called Wasl Oasis 2, which is located in Muhaisnah area and that is really what the market needs today. We are trying to provide the right living and housing place for the residents of Dubai. We have also introduced seven projects in Karama, which is going to be quality affordable living in Dubai and that is going to add to our portfolio of affordable housing.
How has the real estate sector in Dubai evolved over the years?
HESHAM AL QASSIM: In December 2013, the UAE central government has introduced a new structure for the mortgage finance, and that structure has really helped the UAE economy and the real estate market to be more stable and more clear and trust bearing. The new mortgage plan and structure has really supported the end user and the developer. It has stop the speculator from having a big role in the real estate market place. Why? It supports the prices and the stability of the real estate market.