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Al Habtoor and the St Regis Hotel



Name: The St Regis Hotel (now, since August 2018, the Habtoor Palace Hotel)
Completed: December 2015 
Client: Al Habtoor Group  
Main consultant: Khatib & Alamy  
Lighting designers: Maurice Brill Lighting Design (MBLD), London  
Main contractor: HLG Contracting

The lighting market in Dubai is dominated by large projects. Five-star hotels, luxury apartment blocks and shopping malls – every lighting company has completed one or two of these and they are the trophies we all like to brag about. How each project is won changes from case to case. Sometimes it revolved around price, sometimes it is product quality or service, but when one company wins a succession of projects from one client over a number of years, then there must be something more at work than a happy coincidence of these factors.

This is the story of NVC Lighting and the Al Habtoor Group. Of how a chance encounter was nurtured and encouraged and eventually developed into a deep partnership of two like-minded companies.


It all started in first-class on the flight from Guangzhou to Abu Dhabi in the autumn of 2013. NVC’s chairman was going to open our latest showroom and he got talking to a fellow passenger. She knew the owners of a company (the Al Habtoor family) involved in major property developments in the UAE, and their lighting designers had, she said, specified some top European brands for all the lighting. “My friends are asking why the lighting designers always do this – isn’t there a single Chinese brand that can equal Europe for quality?”

If there is a business equivalent of a chat-up line, surely this was it. One thing led to another, as the saying goes, and appropriate introductions were made, but the Al Habtoor Group was not so easily wooed.


The Al Habtoor Group had numerous projects planned – four 5* hotels, a polo resort and three luxury residential towers. To place all the lighting in the hands of one, at that time relatively unknown, Chinese lighting company would have been risky. Procurement was in the hands of Al Habtoor’s own supply company, International Hotel Supplies (IHS), and they had to satisfy the demands of their parent company, and three construction firms, the Habtoor Leighton Group (HLG), Parkway International Construction (PIC) and Sun Engineering.

A poorly managed procurement process, with an unsuitable lighting partner, would have created repeated opportunities for delays, penalty payments and retentions. IHS couldn’t risk a sudden switch to an unknown brand - they preferred a formal introduction and a suitably due-diligence process to minimise the risk. The first Al Habtoor project available for tender was the St Regis hotel*, next to the Dubai Water Canal in Al Habtoor City, and IHS decided to use this as a test for NVC. “Could this Chinese manufacturer, introduced through a chance encounter on an aeroplane really deliver the goods?”

*In 2018 this was re-branded “The Habtoor Palace”


Through the summer of 2014 light fittings and detailed designs were discussed. On the St Regis project Al Habtoor was advised by Khatib and Alami and Maurice Brill Lighting Design (MBLD) – a leading lighting design studio in London which had originally specified the European brands. Having paid for good advice Al Habtoor was not going to substitute top-quality European products with sub-standard Chinese alternatives, so the mock up for some areas of the hotel was completed three times over – to make sure every last detail was to standard.

NVC didn’t waver. Each request had a response, each design modification was accepted and it became clear that a partnership was in the making.

Final approval of NVC’s submittal came when the senior engineers and procurement managers from Al Habtoor and IHS travelled to China in October 2014 to see NVC’s factories for themselves. In a gruelling three-day visit, they inspected our laboratories, test centre, the assembly lines and the design centre. The samples were laid out for them to see, and approval was finally given.


The local purchase order was issued in November 2014, but delivery was required in January 2015. Because NVC has its own factories and is largely in control of its own supply chain (we are vertically integrated, making many of our own drivers and packaging many of our own LEDs) NVC can accelerate delivery when required. With generous use of airfreight, deliveries started on schedule and continued through the early part of 2015.


The lighting packages awarded to NVC from the St Regis hotel included all lighting (functional and decorative) in the suites, the guest bedrooms and guest corridors, the restaurants, gym and spa and the functional lighting in the public areas. With so many different types of lighting to be installed NVC decided to take no risks. We asked the contractors if we could please have our own office on site and we hired additional staff to be based there – on hand to manage the detailed logistics of deliveries to site and to make sure the contractors knew exactly how each fitting should be installed.

By April 2015 the installation was well underway. Custom built chandeliers had been delivered and much of the functional lighting was in place. To date, there had been no major problems (at least, nothing our site office team couldn’t handle), so it seemed appropriate to let the “parents” meet.


In April 2015, NVC was the title sponsor of the FINA World Diving Series, an invitation-only series of diving contests held round the world each year. The competition started in Beijing, and over 6 weeks moved to Kazan (Russia), London (UK) and Windsor (Canada), stopping at the Hamdan Sports Complex in Dubai (UAE) on the way.

The Dubai leg of the competition created the opportunity for the leaders of NVC Lighting to meet the leaders of IHS and this happened over dinner at the Armani hotel. It was clear by this time that NVC was more than just a chairman who flies first-class, a nice showroom in Abu Dhabi and one part-complete 5* hotel project, so approval was given for NVC to be considered for further Al Habtoor projects.

The St Regis hotel in Al Habtoor City was opened in December 2015 and, with some routine maintenance, the lighting has performed precisely as requested.


Over the next three years NVC completed four more hotels for Al Habtoor, plus a polo club and three luxury residential towers. Each one was tendered individually and each one was awarded to NVC Lighting.

We must be doing something right.

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