Saturday, March 03, 2012
Some of you may remember the old Chinese takeaway hotel in downtown Ruwi that is the tallest building in Oman: The Sheraton Hotel.

The hotel closed it's doors for a 6 month, 8 million rial refurbishment 5 years ago. Today, at a rumored project budget in excess of RO 40 million (this is just industry rumor, no hard evidence to support this), the hotel remains closed. Rather amusingly, National Hotels (the company that owns the hotel, part of the Al Hashar group of companies) held a press conference on Wednesday evening at 6:00pm last week. Here's the best bit: they held the press conference in the Al Bustan Palace! hahaha! A Hotel holding a press conference about it's opening.... in another (unrelated) hotel. #fail

It appears that the managing company, National Hotels, must have decided that they were incapable of running the hotel that made sense in an economic way, and so have sub-contracted this out to UAE outfit, Tawasel International Trading Company.

So, apart from having a press conference at 6pm in another hotel to announce your own hotel is about to open, here's a selection of questions asked of National Hotels, and the answers given. I thought it was quite funny, yet somewhat concerning....

1. When will the hotel open?
A: We are going to be "opening shortly" (as happily reported in the ToO on Thursday)

2. When exactly will the hotel open?
A: "Shortly"

3. How much has the refurbishment cost?
A: No comment

4. Why has there been such a long delay?
A: No comment

5. When will the spa be ready, and what will attract monthly rate-payers to come to Ruwi to use it, as opposed to other spa's in the 5* resorts between Qurum and Ghubra?
A: No comment

6. Why have you signed an MoU with an Abu Dhabi operating company?
A: No comment


The refurbishment was originally managed by a company called Bovis Lend Lease (BLL), which has since ceased to operate in this country. Something to note: the sponsor of that company was none other than the Al Hashar group.

BLL had a problem with the ever-increasing scope of works coming from both the owner (Al Hashar) and also the operator (Starwood Hotels - owner of the Sheraton brands). The defacto chief engineer was based in the UK and very infrequently visited the site, and when he did, usually there were a number of changes made. And so, eventually, BLL were removed from the project and replaced by Coffey Project Management, who did their best to try and get things back on track, but eventually quit (so the rumor goes) the project as well through rumored non-payment of their fees.

Non-payment of fees on this project is a very common gripe many trades in town have with this project. Which, when the project budget has grown as much as it is rumored to have, then you could understand that the Client may have not have been prepared for such an increase. Who, after-all, keeps that much cash on hand?

Enough of the negative. The refurbished hotel is indeed very nearly complete, and I have seen pictures from inside the hotel (sorry I can't share them here). The lobby is actually beautiful - the marble is incredible, with veins in the marble staying as tile to tile change - as if it was how it was originally quarried from the earth. The ball room is huge - it must be the largest ball room in the country, and it is fully wired for sound light and data - I'd imagine it may become a popular spot for business purposes too.

The rooms have all been completely and utterly gutted and totally overhauled. Entire new bathrooms, air conditioning and finishes are amongst the upgrades - yes, for those wondering, they fixed the smell problem that the rooms used to have as well. Flat panel screens, data-ready rooms and all the usual things you'd expect from a 5* hotel are all standard of course. There are even Playstation 3's for the rooms as well, a nice touch I thought.

The nightclub in the basement was dumped, and a new spa with indoor pool is in it's place - no word on when that will be ready though. Outside, the tennis courts have been replaced, along with the pool being completely re-built along with ancillary buildings too. All the parking spots have shades - something even The Chedi can not boast. 

And finally... industry rumor puts the hotel "soft" opening in early April.

Stay tuned for more soon.

Last chance to enter for free tickets to Snow Patrol.... click here for more.

le fin.


Anonymous said...

No comment!!! :)

ynotoman said...

The hotel is owned by National Hotels Co Ltd who presumably forgot to learn about 'running' a hotel in the 26 years that they have owned the Sheraton.
They have handed the the running of Sheraton Hotel to the UAE-based Tawasel (a familiar route for Omani companies is to hand it over to 3rd parties especially ones from the UAE - like Tawasel whose profile is so low that it hardly seems to exist).
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc (Sheraton chain) will operate the hotel - presumably under the supervision of the enigmatic Tawasel.
Three layers of decision making/profit taking - should be fun.

Anonymous said...

Having been associated with Bovis Lend Lease (albeit in a somewhat lowly capacity), can assure you that they were NOT sponsored by "the Al Hashar group". BLL's local sponsor was indeed a gentleman surnamed Al Hashar, but he was not one of the ten brothers and sisters who are the heirs of the late Sheikh Said Al Hashar, and who today are "the Al Hashar group".

Was away from the Sultanate when Coffey Projects left. On return, found that they had not only left the Sheraton project, but the country and even the region. They had fired all the staff - even the local Projects Director as well as his boss, their regional head in Dubai, and had shut down. Yes, there may well be unpaid bills. Since they left without any notice, wouldn't be surprised if the doubtless angry client felt any pending bills should be adjusted against what Coffey owed them in lieu of notice.

Anonymous said...

Tawasel International Trading (TIT)Company.

Nice and appropriate with 'Only Fools and Horses' associations!

Anonymous said...

leak the photos to another blogger then

Anonymous said...

Oh dear,

Small correction - The Lead
Interior Architect was based in UK and not the defacto chief engineer.

A press conference in the Al Bustan Palace was probably not required if the main comment was "no comment" - again waste of money.

With TIT involvement it will be another case of the blind leading the blind.

Anonymous said...

Chief Interior Architect used to come practically every month as far as I know as I worked on the site with one of the subcontractors. The problem was BLL who milked the Client for every penny they could and basically sabotaged the project from every direction. Thats why they were fired and thats why the project costs escalated. BLL even quit the region because their fame got widespread and the reputation destroyed by their own inside team.

Anonymous said...

will it be remained under starwood and when will it be open? As all Sheraton team left.

Anonymous said...

Anything new about reopening date???

Anonymous said...

any news on reopening soon, or ever?

Sythe said...

There has been some rumblings in the background the last month or so that the plan is to reopen the hotel shortly, but it'll all depend on the building owners, if they have the money or not - they didn't want to spend the money previously, which is why it remained closed. Time will tell!

Anonymous said...

The last I heard was that it was being bought off by the Ministry of Tourism who still wanted to retain it as 'Sheraton'while another rumor said it would be bought by the Lulu hypermarket chain. Starwood hasn't got a single hotel in Oman yet.

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