Dubai-o-nomics

Another ‘old’ Dubai hotel is being demolished.

It’s not really Mrs Saul’s kind of place, so I didn’t go there as often as I would have liked. It’s just around the corner from us and is one of Dubai’s oldest hotels, with a great ‘English pub’ and a very nice outdoor area.

Having never run a hotel in Dubai, it’s hard for me to understand the logic behind some of the decisions that get made here. In the Metropolitan’s case, however, I am totally baffled.

Despite Dubai’s major draw of having beautiful weather for a good five months or more a year, the Metropolitan never made much of its outdoor area. Whilst Barasti at the Meridien Mina Seyahi went from strength to strength (at least in terms of the cash it pulled in), the Metropolitan never seemed to bother to make use of one its prime assets.

The Metropolitan’s prices never made sense, either. Like many of the older hotels here, it charged similar prices in its older, ‘charming’ venues, to those you’d find in glitzy, brand new venues. (A classic example of this practice is Rydges Plaza, in Satwa – the steaks in the fun but ‘down to earth’ Billy Blues cost about the same as the Meat Company in Souk Al Barsha, which has outdoor tables that overlook the Dubai fountains. Rydges is great, but is not a premium destination by any means).

Surely, when the investment in building your hotel has long since been paid off, it makes sense to price yourself a little lower than the latest poncey venue and to try to attract a crowd of regulars who appreciate decent food but don’t want to pay the crazy prices that are de rigueur across the rest of Dubai? Surely you can do that and still make good margins? Instead, the Metropolitan remained an expensive place to visit – and there was little reason to visit, with the prices it charged, when there are plenty of much more splendiferous places charging the same. As a result it remained fairly empty and, presumably, not particularly profitable.

To be fair to the Metropolitan, during the last twelve months, they upgraded their outdoor area, started having live music on Friday afternoons and advertised their restaurants on the radio – not more than two months ago there was an ad talking about ‘my mate the Metro’, voiced by the same lady who voices every radio ad here, telling us all about the great choice at the Metropolitan.

Right after this series of upgrades and advertisements, presumably intended to drum up business and develop some ‘brand loyalty’, they… demolished the place.

The policy seems to have been to avoid making simple changes that would attract customers, keep prices way too high, not make enough money, spend a fortune on advertising to try to reverse the situation, but then knock everything down and spend millions of dirhams on a venture that will doubtless take a fair while to show a return on the investment put in.

Replace it with something else? That I can understand. But leave it festering for so long and spend money advertising it right before you shut it down? I don’t understand.

It’s a shame the place couldn’t have been reworked a bit to be spruced up, but kept fun along with a pricing policy that meant good value. Dubai could really do with some more down to earth nightspots. The Bunker, Country Club and Wakeboard Club are now long gone. With the Red Lion and its outdoor area gone, another one has bitten the dust.

The most burning question is what will happen to the Rattlesnake, with its band, the Soundsations and its ‘colourful’ female clientele. The Soundsations were there the first time I visited in 2002 – and were still there with pretty much the same line up when I was unfortunate enough to wander in last summer. Certainly an experience…

The funniest thing about the Rattlesnake was its appearance every year in the Entertainer voucher book – three vouchers, offering one main course for free when another was bought. I have often wondered how many people flicked through Entertainer’s pages, saw the Rattlesnake and thought ‘let’s give it a try’. What they encountered was probably not quite what they expected.

So, goodbye to the Metropolitan. Another Dubai classic bids us farewell.

If the Marine’s Club ever gets shut down, I may have to consider leaving Dubai altogether.

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