ABU DHABI: Boutique Group, Saudi Arabia’s newly launched top-tier hospitality brand, has identified three more palaces for conversion into ultra-luxury hotels, the company’s CEO has confirmed.
Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Hospitality Summit in Abu Dhabi, Mark DeCocinis did not clarify what locations the company was deciding on but hinted they could be southwest of the Kingdom, in Taif, and a destination area of the country.
When asked to provide more details of the historical royal residences under consideration, the executive said: “We identified three [palaces], but I cannot announce them to you at this time … one of the palaces we’re looking at has beautiful palm dates, farms and vineyards and fruit trees. It’s really spectacular I think … just to give you a little glimpse of it.”
Boutique Group’s current portfolio includes Al-Hamra Palace in Jeddah, offering 77 keys, including 33 palace suites and 44 luxury villas when renovated. Tuwaiq Palace in Riyadh is expected to have 96 keys when finished, including 40 palace suites and 56 luxury villas. The Red Palace, also in Riyadh, will offer 71 keys, including 46 luxury suites and 25 guest rooms.
DeCocinis told Arab News that Al-Hamra Palace was around “30 to 40 percent” complete, with its doors set to open for visitors by the first quarter of 2025.
Boutique, however, is also looking beyond the conversion of palaces into ultra-luxury accommodations and is eyeing destinations such as resort areas.
“We certainly want to be in some resort areas. And so I’ll give you an example. Like in Taif, I think there’s some beautiful mountain type [locations] … so we are exploring all of the possibilities. There are some beautiful sites that have the potential to be converted,” DeCocinis explained.
He continued: “We take our time and be very selective and it will be a lot of fun, I think, to explore these new destinations.”
While waiting for the 2025 palace opening, DeCocinis said the company is structuring its team and is working with the Kingdom’s tourism ministry to train the adept staff.
“We’re building the team, the hospitality team … we’re sending them to some of the finest schools in Europe and in other parts of the world for training. And then they will come back and they will be part of the Boutique team that will serve our guests,” he said.
About 60 of Boutique’s staff are now training, which is significant according to DeCocinis, considering their core service is a personalized butler experience for the customer.
“It’s really very important that we provide that service for guests where it’s very close but allows them to have their privacy as well … and also to understand what our guests don’t like as well but provide that personalized service as individuals so everyone will be treated as royalty,” he said.
Guests will experience that specialized service when Al-Hamra opens in a few years, where “everything will be very unique and tailored,” DeCocinis said.
“We have a Saudi restaurant that we’re working with some great Saudi chefs, actually, we’re looking at one of the best female chefs because of the history of Al-Hamra … and we also have a Michelin star restaurant, facing the Corniche, that offer international cuisine as well as the Royal Lounge which will serve Saudi coffees and pastries,” he added.
Some amenities include three-level, two-bedroom villas with a top-floor pool. The specially designed areas are interconnected so that families staying in Al-Hamra have close access to one another.
“I think I have to quote His Royal Highness. Saudi Arabia is the success story of the 21st century … and as he says, yes, join us or you’ll miss it. So I think that’s my message,” DeCocinis commented.