Promenade on the Palm Jumeirah

More details of what will be built on the Palm Jumeirah emerged last week as IFA Hotels & Resorts announced a new affiliation with Resort Condominiums International (RCI).

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By  Colin Foreman Published  December 14, 2003

|~|ifa_200w.jpg|~||~|More details of what will be built on the Palm Jumeirah emerged last week as IFA Hotels & Resorts, a subsidiary of International Financial Advisors Kuwait (IFA), announced a new affiliation with Resort Condominiums International (RCI).

IFA is a lead investor on The Palm Jumeirah and its projects on the island cover a sizeable area of the reclaimed palm-tree’s ‘trunk’. Overall, the Kuwaiti-based company will offer just over 1200 rooms by the beach, 450 apartments and 60 boutique shops. This includes the twin-tower Palm Residence, an exclusive, beachfront enclave of 246 super-luxury shoreline apartments and the five-star, 300-room, Palm Hotel & Resort.

The Palm Hotel & Resort will occupy a prime position on The Palm; a development that in total will extend approximately 3.5 miles out into the ocean and provide 35 miles of new beachfront (a 75% increase to Dubai’s existing beachfront). With the Palm widely expected to become a global tourist attraction, IFA is confident of their projects’ success. The early signs are also good: 1800 luxury villas on the fronds (leaves) of The Palm have already been sold, while on the trunk all 2200 condominiums have now been sold.

In what will be a first for Dubai, IFA has elected to develop a mixed-use project on The Palm, Jumeirah, with three distinct types of accommodation. “At The Palm we specialise in delivering ‘firsts,’” said Wahid Attalla, Director of Operations, Nakheel, the developers of The Palm. “Together with IFA we are proud to introduce to Dubai the first, five-star managed timeshare resort which is also fully integrated into a luxury hotel. Given the enormous growth in tourism in Dubai and The Palm’s position as a unique, tourist destination, we are sure that there will be an excellent response to this innovative development.

The development itself consists of four main components, a hotel, a timeshare vacation club, freehold apartments, and a shopping mall. The centerpiece of the development facing the beach will be the 300-room, five-star hotel. IFA expect that the hotel will be managed a major international hotel management company, who will also manage the vacation club suites and freehold apartments.

Flanking the hotel on either side will be the vacation club. For this portion of the development IFA has affiliated with Resort Condominiums International (RCI). With its global network of 3700 affiliated timeshare resorts, RCI will take charge of the membership inventory management of the five-star, 460-suite Vacation Club.

The Palm Vacation Club is part of IFA’s strategy to provide world-class tourism facilities in prime locations. As a result, The Palm Vacation Club will link with other IFA resorts in Zimbali, South Africa and Zanzibar as well as with a planned resort in Lebanon and its existing hotel and Pine Cliffs Vacation Club in Portugal, the Sheraton Algarve and Pine Cliffs Resorts, which is owned by United Investments Portugal, one of the companies in the IFA consortium.

The affiliation with RCI means that the club will be able to enjoy even more links around the world. “This affiliation means that our Vacation Club owners will now have access to a membership exchange programme which already boasts three million member families and spans 3 700 affiliated resorts in more than 100 countries around the world,” said James Wilson, President & COO, IFA Hotels & Resorts.

In addition to the timeshare apartments will be 448 luxury freehold apartments, again with services provided by a five-star hotelier. The importance of this quality of service is considered to be of paramount importance to IFA. “A prestigious international hospitality operator will provide a host of exclusive services which will extend to our Vacation Club members,” explained George Khoury, Vice President Design & Development, IFA Hotels & Resorts.

“The IFA Hotels & Resorts project on the Palm is the first fully integrated timeshare resort on The Palm,” explained Yehia El-Nowaiem, Managing Director, RCI Middle East. “It is differentiated from other offerings by its five-star status with a comprehensive range of hotel and resort facilities and by the fact that it will be operated by a leading hotel chain, with all the associated benefits and facilities, affording it a true resort status.”

At the rear alongside the internal canal running through the trunk of The Palm will be the Souq Palm. Hemmed in between the highway and canal the souq will be linear in shape and will make use of its canal frontage with a promenade lined with shops, cafes and restaurants.

As far as the construction of the project is concerned the master design is already well advanced and has been prepared by Orlando-based HHCP Design International; master designers of The Palm. Construction work is likely to be bundled into separate contracts. According to Khoory the souq will almost certainly be a separate contract as it is physically separated by the highway running up along the trunk towards the spine and fronds of the Palm.

It is also likely that the hotel and timeshare/freehold apartments will be separate contracts. This will be done for two reasons; one to facilitate a faster completion date, and two, the Hotel and apartments will be different buildings. This is a very recent change as the earlier master designs featured one large interconnecting complex. “This recent development was made to physically separate the two the timeshare and hotel so that they will be recognised as separate entities,” says Khoory.

At present, the master design is undergoing its final changes as IFA prepare to hand over the detail design to another architect. The company did reveal that they are seeking feedback from five large international practices. Although they were unable to reveal the exact companies involved it said that they include US, UK, South Africa, and Lebanon-based firms.

In terms of style IFA has opted for what Khoory dubs “a Mediterranean with Gulf flavour design” with early architectural drawings featuring light stone exteriors, domed roofs and open courtyard-like areas. The resort will be low rise and be surrounded by exotic gardens set back from the beachfront.

The planned two-year construction period is expected to begin in June or July next year with completion slated for the end of 2006. The construction of the apartment blocks is expected to account for the majority of works, while the construction of the souq is to be given priority in the initial construction phases to ensure that the whole project comes online simultaneously. IFA are naturally keen to avoid a situation where tourists will be holidaying surrounded by construction work.

Likewise, other construction works on The Palm have also been considered. “The major factor affecting our scheduling is the completion of infrastructure work, such as sewerage and water systems,” says Khoory. “Although we do expect these works to be completed in time,” he adds.

Access to the site should be relatively easy. The central location is also likely to be of benefit to operators once the project is complete as tourists will also be able to access the resort easily from the main highway.

The flexibility of this type of development almost ensures that the project is a success. For local residents, freehold property is available, for regular visitors, timeshare property; for tourists, the hotels.

Above: the Souq Palm is located across the highway behind the hotel and runs alongside the canal. This will provide an excellent environment for canal side shopping. Right: The resort is to have three types of accommodation. This includes a five star hotel, and on the flanks freehold and timeshare apartments to meet the needs of all.||**||

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