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    Banana Island’s long-awaited luxury resort to open in April

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    A rendering of the under-construction resort on Banana Island.
    A rendering of the under-construction resort on Banana Island.

    A new 141-room luxury island resort directly east of the new Hamad International Airport is expected to open in April, according to its operator.

    The still-unnamed facility is located on the 29.65-acre Banana Island. It will be operated by Anantara Hotels, Resorts and Spas, a Thailand-based company with more than 30 facilities in Asia, Africa and the UAE.

    Speaking to Doha News, marketing director Marwa Sayed Afify said:

    “Construction is almost done. All the department heads have been hired. They’ve started to hire their respective teams.”

    Indeed, approximately 20 job vacancies for administrative and front-line staff were posted on various job boards earlier this month.

    The Banana Island facility is one of more than 120 hotels and serviced apartment blocks under construction in Qatar. Many developers, including Anantara and its partners, are entering an increasingly crowded high-end luxury market, but tourism officials have said a resort-style facility fills a gap in Doha’s hospitality offerings.

    They add that increasing the diversity of accommodations and activities makes Qatar a more attractive destination, especially as local officials compete against regional rivals such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

    Facilities

    The resort will feature a 96-room hotel, as well as 34 two and three-bedroom poolside villas. Additionally, there will be 11 Maldives-style villas, built above water on stilts.

    Amenities include a nine-hole golf putting course, a luxury cinema, bowling alley and diving center, the latter of which will take advantage of a man-made offshore reef currently under construction.


    More images of the planned resort:


    While some of the facilities will be open to non-guests, the exact makeup of the resort’s membership structure – such as whether day passes would be offered – is still being developed, Afify said.

    There will be a handful of Anantara-operated Arabic and international restaurants. The resort will not be licensed to sell alcohol.

    Afify said the resort is primarily targeted at GCC nationals – particularly Qatari citizens and tourists from Saudi Arabia – as well as visitors from Europe.

    Saudi residents make up the overwhelming majority of visitors to Qatar, according to the Qatar Tourism Authority.

    Speaking to Doha News, a QTA source who asked not to be named noted that the kingdom’s large population is attracted by Qatar’s common culture, lack of crowds and family-friendly atmosphere. Qatar is also within driving distance, making it a more affordable leisure destination.

    Logistics

    Banana Island is located roughly 3.5 kilometers east of the new HIA runways, which are built adjacent to the water. However, Afify said the noise from planes taking off and landing won’t be an issue.

    “I don’t think it will be that loud. It’s not that close,” she said.

    Construction on the Banana Island resort began in mid-2012. Last year, UrbaCon General Contracting – the firm responsible for building the resort – told Construction Week Qatar that the resort would be completed in the summer, and that there would likely be a soft opening by the end of 2013.

    Anantara did not comment on the apparent discrepancy in timelines.

    To access the island, guests would board a ferry from Shuyoukh Port, the Dhow harbor across from the Souq Waqif, for the 16 to 20 minute ride to Banana Island. Afify said negotiations are underway to connect the island with two more ports, but declined to disclose the location. A published report said one of those facilities would be at the Pearl-Qatar.

    To that end, a marine industry trade website reported this week that Turkish firm Ares Shipyards had received an order to construct eight 18-meter ferries to shuttle passengers between downtown Doha and the Anantara resort. The first pair of 51-passenger catamaran vessels are scheduled to be delivered next month, according to the report.

    Afify declined to say whether it had ordered any ferries.

    Local transportation operator Karwa previously said it planned to launch a water taxi service – connecting the new airport, Banana Island and the Pearl-Qatar – by the end of 2014.

    Thoughts?

    Peter Kovessy
    Peter Kovessy is a reporter with Doha News. Prior to moving to Qatar in 2013, he was the editor of the Ottawa Business Journal in Canada. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from Carleton University.

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