The iconic Sheraton Doha hotel will completely shut down for renovations this Saturday, according to staff at the local waterfront landmark.
Monday was the last day that the hotel was accepting new reservations, and staff at the Sheraton – which celebrated its 32nd birthday late last month – said they were trying to make alternate reservations for guests who had already booked rooms.
Speaking to Doha News, the hotel’s general manager J. Thomas C van Opstal said everything was still “fluid” at this time, and a reopening date has not yet been set. He also said the hotel was still working out what to do with staff, some of whom have already been asked not to report to work.
The closure also means conventions planned in advance, such as next month’s Al Jazeera Film Festival, will have to be relocated.
Several of the hotel’s restaurants closed this week, including Latino, which was supposed to be holding a Mexican food-theme festival through March 8, according to Sheraton’s Facebook page.
A receptionist said today that the Sheraton’s coffee shop, Italian eatery La Veranda and Al Hubara Restaurant will remain open until Saturday. Renovations begin on Sunday, she added.
The move to temporarily close down appears to be a reversal from previous plans to leave parts of the hotel open during renovations and perform the work in stages, starting at the end of this year. Under those plans, the project was to take two years to complete.
While the Sheraton remained open during a $20m renovation in 2002, it is typically easier for operators to completely shut down a hotel during extensive construction work as the absence of paying guests means workers are more free to move around the building and can be less conscious of making noise.
A spokesperson for Katara Hospitality, which owns the Sheraton, has not responded to requests seeking more information.
Last March, Katara Hospitality CEO Hamad Abdulla Al Mulla told Al Sharq that the overhaul would cost $137.3m to $192.2m, and include renewing and redesigning the entire building, including the rooms, restaurants and access road.
At the time, he also hinted that the hotel could be renamed or rebranded.
Plans for the overhaul have been discussed since at least 2011, when former general manager Steven W. Kalczynski said a renovated Sheraton would include three new restaurants and a new pool.
Last May, a Katara Hospitality spokesperson said the lobby, as well as all guest rooms, restaurants and bars would receive a facelift. Attention would then turn to the Sheraton’s meetings and convention space, followed by work on the hotel’s recreational facilities.
The Sheraton’s renovations comes amid a hotel construction boom in Qatar and a push by tourism officials to massively increase the number of visitors to the Gulf country.
Whereas the Sheraton was one of the country’s only high-end hotels when it was constructed in the early ‘80s – many like to point out that it was one of the only buildings in West Bay at the time – it now competes with at least 90 other facilities across Qatar, many of them also five-star.
There are currently more than 13,400 hotel rooms in the country, according to local tourism officials. That’s expected to swell to up to 30,500 rooms by the 2022 World Cup.
The new renovation timeline means that work on the Sheraton Doha will be in full swing just as a massive construction project adjacent to the hotel wraps up.
The Sheraton Park project, which involves constructing a multi-level underground car park, an underground walkway to the under-construction Doha Exhibition and Convention Center as well as green space, is said to progressing on track and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014.
In addition to the 371-room Sheraton Doha, Katara Hospitality also owns the city’s Ritz Carlton, Doha Marriott (by the airport) and Sharq Village, as well as 17 other hotels across Qatar, Europe, Africa and Asia, according to its website.