Al Marjan Island: A Waterfront Destination
Al Marjan, a cluster of four man-made islands located in Ras Al Khaimah- UAE covers an area of 2.7 million square meters of reclaimed land. Spearheading an aggressive expansion program for the four islands is Abdullah Al Abdooli, Managing Director of Al Marjan Island LLC.Speaking to Sapna Srivastava on her visit to Al Marjan, he expressed his vision for the destination and the development strategy.
A seasoned architect, Abdooli graduated from the American University of Sharjah in the UAE in 2009 and mastered in regional and urban planning from the Paris Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi. His approach towards the island development is to promote the place as a mixed-use development. While, luxury hospitality remains the biggest attraction for this waterfront destination, other projects being focused include residential, retail, industrial set-up and businesses.
What are Al Marjan unique propositions as a destination?
Man-made yet designed to be a natural extension of the surrounding landscape. The four islands, each with its own characteristic offers sun, sand and beaches all the year round to local residents and international visitors.However, all the islands have been developed as a combination of water front homes, world-class hotels and resorts, international standard marinas and retail and recreational facilities. This strategy has ensured the destination’s popularity for both investment and leisure.The islands based on four concepts Breeze, Treasure, Dream and Viewfeature varied realty developments accordingly.
As the gateway to Al Marjan Island, Breeze Island offers two kilometre long promenade, waterside dining and shopping facilities coupled with captivating views of the Arabian Gulf. The island is home to the Double Tree Hilton and Turkish hotel chain Rixos Bab Al Bahr. The Treasure Island comprises a first-class marina, and access to the Corniche that runs 3.5km to Breeze Island. Located on this island are waterside apartments and resorts including Marjan Island Resort and Spa(managed by Accor).Extending further into the Arabian Gulf, lays Dream Island. Surrounded by five kilometre of waterfront, it is dotted with beach clubs and features its own marina with upscale architectural structures. Lastly, the View Island, spanning more than five million square feet, consists of both medium and low-rise luxury apartment blocks looking out to the sea in every direction.
What are the planning guidelines for the projects coming up on the islands?
One of Al Marjan differentiators from other waterfront developments is its coral shape that gives almost every property a fantastic waterfront view and that is how we intend to keep it in the long run. The design and architecture of the island is sustainable and innovative and we encourage the investors to adopt the same principles.
We give developers nine moths time duration to show the progress on ground. They buy the plot by paying full price and get clear land titles as it is a freehold property. As per the master plan, all developments on the island are limited to seven to 10 storeys to maintain the urban density. The idea is to not let Al Marjan become another bustling city with overcrowding and traffic woes but, to have a planned and sustainable growth. But, there is a certain degree of flexibility also built-in. We go through an extensive technical review of proposed projects and if and when necessary the extra FSI or another floor is permitted as per the investor demand, while respecting the overall vision of the development.
How would you describe Al Marjan Island’s investment environment
The strategic location of the Island makes it a favourable investment destination for Indian investors. The freehold facility makes investment not only secure (as the title ownership of the property is with the investor), but also tax free. Also, there is no restriction on the repatriation of capital and profits. We have a good business model that can make investors trust the company. The genuine buyers can come and experience the ready in-place infrastructure to feel confident about putting their money here.;
In addition, Al Marjan Island LLC extends support and advice to investors and developers. We work as a partner with the investors and other stakeholders, thereby pre-empting most possible causes for project postponements and construction delays. Development of projects within a stipulated period of time ensures that the island as a whole reaches set targets to deliver time-bound growth to investors and owners. A lot of investors are launching projects, and the real estate market here is considered a secure and the ease of doing business is encouraging.
We are not competing with Dubai, Doha or Palm Jumeihra as Al Marjan is developed on a distinct concept of being the Arab gateway to the region. Al Marjan LLC is investing in Arab culture, mountains, desert and landscape to bring a value proposition to the region and investors.
What is the investment potential of the island?
About 1.15 million square metre of area is available for investors and developers to develop different categories of real estate ranging from hospitality, residential villas and apartments and large format retail to recreational facilities, amusement parks and commercial projects
According to a recent study by Colliers International, investments made in Al Marjan Island are delivering a 16 odd percent Equity IRR, which is on par with other similar, established projects in the region. The high return on investments is due to the affordable land prices, competitive operational costs, and subsequent high levels of profitability. This despite the premium attached to waterfront properties.
Plot prices have gone up by 20 per cent so far this year, and are expected to increase by 20 per cent again next year because of the shortage of beachfront properties.
What are some of the initiatives to attract foreign investments to Al Marjan Island?
The payback is within five years. That, in itself, is one of the competitive advantages of Al Marjan Island.We have investors from the UAE, the GCC, India, Pakistan and the UK. The focus is also to attract investments from China, Russia and EU. The islands one and two are almost sold. Now the focus is on islands three and four will follow. We’re building the public amenities, infrastructure and security so that any investor gets all these facilities the moment they plan to invest. Indians are participating majorly and are 30-40 per cent of our investors.
Our strategy for attracting investors is simple and transparent. We create value for the existing investors and they demonstrate this generated revenue value to other potential investors. Additionally, we also develop our own products to drive the market ourselves.
The Ras Al-Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAK TDA) has chalked out an ambitious plan to attract one million visitors to Ras Al-Khaimah by the end of 2018, aiming to boost the tourism revenues to AED four billion and Al Marjan Island is one of the important stakeholders. The RAK TDA new strategic plan targets a more diversified tourism mix that ensures more demand stability and reduces exposure associated with a small number of markets. It expects 10-15% growth in the number of tourists from India.