TradeArabia News Service published an article dated 30 September on how to tell the intended calibre and principal character differences between buildings projects. 


Future-is-now  HardRock Hotel








Integrated destinations – not just mixed use projects

by Sven P Gade

In a region where giga-projects are the norm and superlatives a minimum, what is it that makes (real estate) projects stand out and successful? And to be pragmatic – how can a developer ensure commercial success in a highly competitive environment? What are the drivers?

Does mixed use mean “a bit of everything”? It is not as simple as that – if the components do not work together ‘synergistically’, target customers will not be reached or maximized, says Sven P Gade, FIH, Group CEO of PKF – The Consulting House, leading business advisors to the real estate, hospitality and tourism sectors based in Dubai, UAE.

Just lumping components together and calling them a work-live-play environment does not guarantee success.

Is a hotel simply a provider of accommodation, food & beverage? Guests and hoteliers alike will deny that with vigor– and they are right. There are many more things to a hotel, often relating to physical facilities, but even more so to intangible service aspects. A hotel / real estate project is an experience.

Most of the answer lies in a basic notion: project success is ultimately defined by end users – i.e., visitors, residents and/or tenants. They decide which offer they choose and where they stay longer, spend more or return to. If what they bring generates sufficient income against the investment, commercial viability is given. So how exactly is that achieved – and sustained? Again: what are the drivers?

The end users mentioned above have motivations and make decisions. It is not enough to assume that they will respond to the loudest marketing message. Their motivations might be finance, boredom, status, culture, brands… to name but a few. So the first step must be to identify which target segments to aim for. Then their motivators need to be analysed carefully. Finally, the project then has to be designed to respond. Thus, the sequence is: target segments -business case -planning -design.

Mostly, the concept of “anchors” is well known – but insufficient. What is really needed is a product that is synergetic and maximizes opportunity all the way and at all levels. A tool that has proven highly useful in achieving that is a concept borrowed from tourism and adapted to real estate development.

Destination programming

The notion of a “destination” lies originally at the heart of tourism, and the “destination concept” is widely accepted as one of the most important aspects of tourism. Tourism Planning as applied to creating a “destination” is facilitated by applying planning concepts and processes that are relevant to the core destination (community and surrounding area), as well as to the “site” (land for development).

Destination Programming thus becomes a core discipline of tourism planning and development and will reveal the elements and components required to form an attractive and competitive destination – and that notion is equally valid in real estate development, be it at unit, mega project or urban planning level.

When planning real estate, destination programming should play a key role to success. In order to create a successful destination, destination programming is essential to increase and optimise the destination’s levels of “attractiveness” as well as “competitiveness” in terms of positioning.

The aim is to maximise visitor numbers, length of stay and level of spending – and the best word of mouth effect.

Another aim – often overlooked – is that a successfully integrated destination should generate additional footfall out of itself – the “synergy effect”. Simply, it means that a visitor arriving for an original reason will in fact spend more time (and money) by utilising components that he/she had not expected – and ideally come back again for more.

Thus, the destination generates its very own additional success over and above the original market share (target: approx. 20 per cent).

Destination programming will ensure all existing (e.g. natural) as well as future (e.g. man-made /cultural) required destination resources are assessed and existing gaps are identified. That requires a detailed analysis of the environment the future destination will live in.

Based thereon, the requirements for the optimum destination programming, concept, massing, sizing and positioning are derived. The final step is the analysis of the “synergy effect” to maximise success.

Beyond the Physical

Until a few years ago, places (whatever their raison d’être) were defined in terms of attractions, facilities, ease of access, atmosphere and capacities. This approach is largely passive and assumes that the given environment will suffice to maximize the flow of the targeted visitors. More recent approaches suggest that there is more than just the physical aspect to a “destination”. The fundamental difference is the understanding that “places” can only become “destinations” if they are visited by people.

Note: Destination success can only be driven to full potential when programmed with the target segments in mind and ALL components fitting into a holistic and complete offering which in turn has to be derived from visitor expectations. This is where the concept of a “Programmed Destination” is vital.

It is therefore surprising how little Destination Programming is applied as a natural precursor: how could you successfully market something that has not been defined?

Therefore, the next question is: How do “places” actually become “destinations”?

At the same time that “core resources & attractors” (e.g. natural resources, activities, events, entertainment / edutainment, etc.) that will form the destination are identified, it is vital to ensure that the destination will offer a broad mix of memorable things to do and experience. That is achieved through “attractions” or “experiential platforms”.

When planning for an attractive and competitive destination, all of these need to be developed hand in hand as an iterative process. Finally, the “theming & branding” aspects of the destination are considered, to create premium potential for all proposed development components to be derived there from.

Since there is an “imperative of place” (location) associated to attractions, they need to become “platforms” for visitor and resident activities, i.e. venues that serve the purpose of fulfilling expectations, needs and wants.

They become “experiential platforms” that need to come alive – which happens through the definition and early planning of activities and events. It must be emphasised that all plans and recommendations require “integration” at all levels right from the beginning. Eventually, commitment and land use directions at the destination and site scales are necessary to translate the planning concepts and processes into reality.

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