Zabeel House Mini: Low-cost luxury on old Dubai’s waterfront

Zabeel House Al Seef. (Supplied)
Updated 18 December 2018

Zabeel House Mini: Low-cost luxury on old Dubai’s waterfront

  • Three-star Zabeel House Mini by Jumeirah, Al Seef was the debut property for the ‘Zabeel House by Jumeirah’ collection
  • Perfect for those who want to explore old Dubai

DUBAI: Even five years ago, we would never have associated Dubai with wallet-friendly holiday accommodation. Most of the top-rated hotels were considered upmarket, resulting in travelers having to shell out quite a bit to experience the luxury lifestyle that the emirate is synonymous with.
But affordable trips to the UAE are becoming more widely available, thanks to the arrival of mid-market concepts in the past few years. We’re not talking about the business-focused hotels which, let’s face it, can have rooms that are boring and bland. Rather, we’re referring to the more exciting, uniquely designed ‘boutique’ hotels that are wildly popular in cities including London, Barcelona and Zurich.

Opening earlier this year, the three-star Zabeel House Mini by Jumeirah, Al Seef was the debut property for the ‘Zabeel House by Jumeirah’ collection, aimed at “modern-day explorers” and “experience seekers,” with each hotel designed to fit in with its neighborhood.
In this case, that neighborhood is Al Seef on Dubai Creek, situated close to the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. Home to the Museum of Illusions Dubai, along with the textile souk, and plenty of shops and restaurants — not to mention beautiful views of the water — this area is perfect for those who want to explore old Dubai.
The hotel lobby is a modern-design lover’s paradise. Featuring a mish-mash of colors — brightly hued couches adorned with slogan-print cushions — together with unique Emirati-inspired art, a foosball table, and swings, guests have the option of checking in via the manned reception or through the self check-in area.

Having arrived during a non-busy period, we were surprised at the speed of check-in — it should have been quicker than it was — but this was quickly forgiven when we were surprised with a free upgrade to a room with a view of the city.
The hotel has 150 rooms split into three categories: Pocket Room, Pocket Room — City Scene, and the Family Room. Each comes with an extra-large double bed as standard.

We were pleasantly surprised by just how much is packed into these little spaces. There’s a retro Smeg mini-fridge, a tablet to control lighting and other functions, an espresso machine and kettle, along with a television featuring over 100 channels. Quirky design adds to the charm, with artsy touches all around, including a fully functioning rotary dial telephone. A particular highlight is a city map of Dubai painted on the ceiling, so if you’re having trouble sleeping, you could always plan your next day’s itinerary.

Although the City Scene room costs more, there’s really no difference between the cheaper option except for what you can see out of the window. However, if you’re staying at a time when fireworks are expected by the Creek, then this category offers a view like no other.
A Dubai hotel wouldn’t be complete without a swimming pool, and Zabeel House Mini’s rooftop pool with a view is well worth the visit. For those preferring to stay indoors, there’s a fitness center and sauna (although, to be honest, we spent more time playing mini pool and foosball). What’s more, there are bikes available to use around the neighborhood; a great way to get around and see some sights, at least in the winter months.

As mentioned, there are plenty of restaurants around Al Seef — from tourist-hotspot Arabian Tea House to burger chains like Five Guys — but there are also options at the hotel. C.U serves up pan-Asian and Middle Eastern, while MishMash features street food from around the world. There’s also a ‘grab-and-go’ area.
At around $75-95 per night, you really do get your money’s worth and more. The hotel is truly delightful and part of a concept that is much-needed in the region. It just goes to show that you don’t need to flash the cash to holiday like a VIP these days.


For Gulf economies, Chinese outbound tourism holds passport to riches

Chinese tourists are widening their horizons with the Middle East tipped to be a leading destination by 2020. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 June 2019

For Gulf economies, Chinese outbound tourism holds passport to riches

  • GCC countries currently attract a mere one percent of China's annual outbound traffic
  • Gulf brands advised to engage with the world's fastest growing consumer group: Chinese tourists

DUBAI: “One learns more from traveling 10,000 miles than from reading 10,000 scrolls.” For China’s fast-growing middle class, there has never been a better time to be guided by the ancient Chinese proverb as 150 million people travel every year from the Asian country to destinations around the world.
Given the vast numbers involved and the fact that only eight out of 100 Chinese hold a passport, the mind boggles at the possibilities that could be in store for the global consumer market.
If the Gulf can capture even a fraction of the total Chinese outbound travel market, the economic bonanza for the region will be huge, according to consulting firms and experts.
Experts at the Arab Luxury World conference in Dubai last week advised regional brands on strategies to engage with the luxury market’s largest and fastest- growing consumer group.
“Because the Gulf had so much organic business, it wasn’t the first necessity to hunt for more opportunities,” said Jonathan Siboni, founder and CEO of Luxurynsight. “But now the market is repositioning itself. Chinese consumers are a new thing for the region.”
A report by management consultants McKinsey in November 2018 said: “More than 70 percent of Chinese tourists travel with family and friends. As a result, these groups are the world’s highest spenders per single trip. We expect annual growth of 6.1 percent for the next couple of years.”
Siboni said: “There are 3.5 million millionaires in China. No matter what the preferred focus of niche brands, be it adventure, nature or shopping, Gulf companies will be well positioned if they prepare and target well.” He uses the example of France, a country of 67 million people that receives 90 million tourists every year. Almost two million of the visitors are Chinese. More importantly, they account for 25 percent of France’s duty-free sales.
“If you have a very smart strategy, you can definitely generate results,” Siboni told Arab News on the sidelines of the Arab Luxury World conference.
“Look at the results from France’s two million Chinese tourists. I would be tempted to say the same for Dubai. If you really target well and manage to learn how to talk to them and provide something unique, then the contribution to the image and the economy can be tremendous.”
The number of Chinese tourists traveling to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries is forecast to jump 81 percent between 2018 and 2022 — from 1.6 million to 2.9 million, according to a study by Colliers International in partnership with the Arabian Travel Market. The data show that GCC countries are visited by a mere 1 percent of China’s tourists, but that share is expected to grow.
Local communication agencies can play a big role in the GCC tourism and consumer market’s transformation, Siboni said. Luxurynsight is not operating in Saudi Arabia, but he expects it to begin operations at some point as the Kingdom takes steps to reinvent itself as a major tourist destination. For international travel agencies, hotels, retailers and other allied industries, the good news is not only that Chinese outbound tourism is exploding, but also that Chinese tourists are widening their horizons. As Maissa Zard, Luxurynsight’s head of marketing and sales, points out, Chinese tourists have become a lot savvier when it comes to choosing digital products and brands. “Before they shop, they know exactly where to shop and what to buy,” she told Arab News. “There is a rise in cross-border e-commerce, so if brands in the region become loyal to tourists from the start, they would be building not only brand loyalty but also local store loyalty.”
Brands should stop viewing Chinese tourists as “something extra,” she said, adding that “they need to develop a loyal relationship with the Chinese consumer. According to the latest data, Chinese consumers represent 33 percent of the global luxury industry - a figure that will rise to 50 percent in a couple of years. As much as 75 percent of their purchases are made outside China, with the Middle East one of their top shopping destinations for 2020. Zard believes the Middle East has an important edge over Europe. “The region is very strong in terms of service and quality because it has a demanding local clientele,” she said. “They need to leverage that advantage. Brands must understand that Chinese tourists could well become their best clients. The local clientele isn’t sustainable because the world is becoming more globalized.”
A big question for regional brands is how to cater to Chinese consumers and approach them in the right manner. “It’s about vision and strategy,” Siboni said. “Providing them with a unique experience will be key. In Paris, it’s about luxury and culture. Dubai, for instance, has to define its best strategy.”
According to a report issued by Dubai’s Department of Economic Development, the emirate currently hosts almost 19,000 Chinese investors, who hold close to 6,000 active business licenses. “It is true that you have to deal with partners you are not used to, but it’s a market that is extremely structured,” Siboni said. “You have a few players who own the game, so once you know how it works, then you’re in it.”
The McKinsey report detailed eight distinct segments of Chinese tourists, ranging from value-seeking sightseers and sophisticates to backpackers and shoppers. Whatever the segment, engaging with Chinese consumers will involve the use of popular technologies and communication tools, such as WeChat and Little Red Book for payment processes.
“It means you have to integrate a payment system that is digitalized,” Siboni said. “Alipay and WeChat Pay are tools that are non-negotiable. You need to integrate them with your business processes no matter what because, if you don’t, then even if customers come to you, they won’t be able to pay.”
Siboni urges a 360-degree vision to ensure that content o ered by brands in the Gulf region resonates with Chinese tourists. However, more work needs to be done regionally to keep pace with international consumer trends.
“Elsewhere in the region, attracting Chinese consumers is still not the top priority,” Siboni said. “But Dubai has already understood that it has to diversify, which is why you see increasing numbers of Chinese tourists.”
If people do learn more from traveling than from just reading, as the proverb suggests, then Chinese tourists have yet another incentive to make the Gulf region one of their favored destinations.