Exclusive Travel & Hospitality Dubai’s Sunset shines bright on global hospitality stage By Andy Sambidge February 8, 2023 Sunset Hospitality Group Aura Sky Pool & Lounge is on the 50th floor of Dubai's Palm Tower Group plans expansion after securing $35m fundingCEO wants to open 20 new venues globally Azure Beach and Attiko coming in VietnamMore launches in the UAE and Saudi Arabia Sunset Hospitality Group has $35 million to invest, and global expansion is top of its agenda. After securing the funding from Goldman Sachs Asset Management in November, the company, which is based in Dubai, is targeting the UK, US, the Mediterranean and Asia. “By the end of 2023 we hope to open a further 20 venues and increase our presence from nine countries to 14,” CEO Antonio Gonzalez told AGBI. UAE’s hotel pipeline hits $32bn as tourism recovery continues‘Constantly evolving’ Mena key to Hyatt growth plan, says new VPSaudi outpaces neighbours as prime tourist destination He said the money “will not only help us to accelerate the growth, but also validate our company internationally”. “The investment can also be taken as a sign of confidence in Dubai and the UAE as a hub for entrepreneurship and a growing focal point for hospitality excellence,” Gonzalez said. Formed in 2011, Sunset operates 26 hospitality brands around the world, ranging from resorts and beach clubs to restaurants and nightlife venues, including Azure Beach, Drift Beach Club, Aura, Attic and Sushisamba. Its footprint in southeast Asia will be further boosted by the launch of Azure Beach and Attiko in Vietnam, scheduled to open in the third quarter of 2023. Despite the cost of living crisis, Gonzalez says company’s growth plan remains ambitious. CEO Antonio Gonzalez plans to open 20 more venues. Picture: Sunset Hospitality Group “Across our portfolio we have a strong value proposition, meaning we are competitive even in situations of inflation or increased cost of living,” he said. “Our brands are focused on social hospitality, not transactional, and therefore one of the last areas where consumers tend to reduce spending.” He added that the expansion is only possible after securing market share in Sunset’s home market. “It’s vital to have a good hold on first the local market and then the regional, before going global,” Gonzalez said. “An advantage of being a market leader in the UAE is we have built our track record in a competitive environment. “We remain committed to growth within the UAE and wider GCC region. We also want to take our team’s talent and ambition further afield and apply all the know-how we’ve developed over the past decade in Dubai, and export it to a wider base. “We’re actively looking at acquisition opportunities to continue our growth around the world.” Sunset has new venues set to open in the UAE before the end of the year, including the Signor Sassi Italian fine dining restaurant on Palm Jumeirah. Gonzalez said the GCC region’s food and beverage industry has developed dramatically in the past decade, with Dubai in particular becoming a major hotspot attracting the best brands. Of the launch of the Michelin Guide in the UAE last year, he said: “Michelin stars are awarded to restaurants that are considered the very best. Having this in the cities in which we operate not only elevates tastes but also consumer expectations. Azure Beach Vietnam opens this year as part of Sunset’s ambitious expansion drive. Picture: Sunset Hospitality Group “Having these sort of outlets within the region certainly increases competition and consumer desires. It also showcases the region as a leading player in the fine dining scene.” Gonzalez also revealed that Sunset is planning “a few more” openings in Saudi Arabia in the coming months, buoyed by the success seen since the opening of its Black Tap brand in Riyadh in 2022. But we should also expect to see further growth in Asia. “There are many markets that we’ve been following for a while and while we can’t say too much until further details have been confirmed, Asia has always been on our radar,” he said. “There’s a wealth of opportunity there in terms of diverse clientele and venues that could be established. We’re actively seeking additional venues and have sights set on locations in Singapore and Bali.” Work is nearing completion on Mett Hotel & Beach Resort, a beachfront project in Marbella, Spain, according to Gonzalez. The refurbished complex on the Costa Del Sol will open in July, with the CEO saying there will be further openings under the Mett brand.