Hotels are aggressively competing for business during Ramadan, launching an array of offers to try to generate revenue during what hoteliers expect will be a particularly difficult month this year. Room rates are being cut, spa treatments discounted, food and beverage offers launched and meetings and events promotions pushed. Special Ramadan packages are flooding the market as hotels fight for guests. Ramadan is expected to start on August 11. Each year, the fasting period moves forward because it is based on the Islamic lunar calendar.
"Ramadan could be challenging this year as it falls during the summer season, whereby both leisure and business travel are likely to be very slow," said Syed Zulfiqar Mehdi, the sales director of Samaya Hotel in Dubai. "Food and beverage outlets are vying for customers and there are promotions all over the place." He said the Samaya Hotel, a five-star property in Deira, had launched offers including an iftar special for Dh88 (US$23.96), while it was pricing its rooms at Dh600 a night and allowing guests to check in at 9am and check out at 6pm.
Meanwhile, in Jumeriah Beach Hotel's Ramadan tent there is a minimum requirement to spend Dh1,000 per guest on food and drink to attend the suhour in one of four private majlis areas, which accommodate up to eight people. There are also two VIP majlis, with seating for up to 14 guests, with a minimum charge of Dh2,000 per person. The iftar in the tent is somewhat cheaper at Dh165 per person, while the suhoor is Dh100 for those not seeking a private Majlis area.
Hoteliers noted that this year was more competitive, not only because of the timing of Ramadan with many expatriates leaving for the summer and GCC families likely to stay at home but because there were more properties chasing business. In Dubai, new openings in the city meant supply increased by 13 per cent to 64,143 rooms in hotel and hotel apartments in the first quarter of the year, up from 56,755 in the same period last year, according to data from the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing.
Hermann Feigl, the director of food and beverage at the Grand Millennium Dubai, which is another of the many hotels that are setting up special airconditioned Ramadan tents for the occasion, said the hotel was trying to attract early bookings for the feasts, particularly from corporate groups and families, by offering a 20 per cent discount if reservations were made before the holy period begins. "We know Ramadan is a time for families, friends and even business colleagues to get together," Mr Feigl said. "And we have planned to offer every facility to make the Grand Millennium a preferred venue during this time."
The Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates, meanwhile, is trying to encourage its iftar and suhoor customers to stay at the hotel, with an offer for rooms starting from Dh799 during Ramadan, which includes and an iftar or suhoor. In Abu Dhabi, the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr is setting up a 360 square metre Ramadan tent with capacity for up to 120 guests for iftars and sohours. It is also offering its ballroom, which can hold up to 800 guests, as a venue for corporate and private groups to have iftar or suhoor.