Because of a combination of factors including the global downturn, an ever-growing supply of hotel rooms and soaring temperatures that are deterring many European travellers, some hotels in the Emirates - especially in Dubai - have cut prices by more than 50 per cent in an effort to fight off competition and attract guests. Premjit Bangara, the travel manager at Sharaf Travel in Dubai, said now was an exceptionally good time to book a holiday at home. "There are some great deals in the UAE," he said. "Hotels are offering you value-added packages, they're offering you tariffs that are much better than normal rates. You've got real choice and also value for money, especially in Dubai." Mr Bangara said the deals were largely a result of the increased supply of rooms in the emirate and the fact that there were "less takers". He said: "Hotel have to sell the rooms and they don't mind coming down on the rates to stimulate business." Raffles Dubai is offering a special summer rate of US$231 (Dh850), which includes a 25 per cent discount on food and drinks and its spa. Last year, Raffles' summer rate was $408 (Dh1,500), which only included breakfast. "Price is king at the moment and it's a buyer's market," agreed Mike Scully, who founded First and Foremost Hotels and Resorts, which specialises in asset management for hotel owners. "The rates are definitely more competitive than last year." Kempinski Hotel Mall of The Emirates in Dubai said its room rates this year started from US$218 (Dh800), whereas last year rates started from $463 (Dh1,700). "We have already started offering very special rates as of this month and will continue throughout the summer months," said Nasser Fawzi, the director of sales and marketing at Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates. "Dubai is known to be one of the most expensive cities in the world and by this initiative Dubai will reposition itself as a good destination for all categories." Even Dubai's normally pricey beach hotels have been forced to put packages together to shore up occupancies. "From June to September the beach hotels will do all they need to do to capture particularly locals and GCC nationals to enjoy a beach holiday," said Alex Kyriakidis, a global managing partner at Deloitte Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure. He said beach properties were likely to deliver an average daily rate of $160 (Dh588), with occupancy levels of around 55 per cent. Non-beach hotels, meanwhile, would experience occupancies in the mid-30s, with average daily rates of around $140 (Dh514). "Relative to this year, last year is proving to have been a fantastic year for hotels," Kyriakidis said. Many hotels with lower-than-desired occupancy rates are adding freebies to the price of their rooms in order to entice guests. The Palm Jumeirah's flagship hotel, Atlantis, which opened last September with an extravagant $20 million (Dh73m) party, is offering special summer rates starting from $218 (Dh800) per room per night from this month running through to Sept 19. The ocean-themed resort is also offering unlimited free entry to its 17-hectare waterpark, Aquaventure. Tickets to the waterpark would normally cost from $60 (Dh220). Guests also get unlimited free entry to the Lost Chambers, a maze of underwater corridors surrounded by marine life. The deals are available at Reservations@atlantisthepalm.com or by calling 0 4 426 1000. Dubai's home-grown Jumeirah Group, which operates the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel and the landmark wave-shaped Jumeirah Beach Hotel, among others, has launched its "Summer Days" campaign targeted at families. The packages at Jumeirah's properties cost from $313 (Dh1,150), and offer free accommodation and meals to children under the age of 15. Other benefits include a free buffet breakfast, internet and movies, and a daily gift certificate redeemable in spas, sport and leisure facilities, and restaurants and bars. All guests also receive free access to Wild Wadi Water Park. The offers are available online at www.jumeirah.com/summerdays. There are limits, however, to the price slashing. Although the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab hotel, for example, has added freebies included in its room prices, senior executives at Jumeirah Group have refused to budge on the actual rates, pointing out to offer such deals at the exclusive hotel would have negative consequences in the longer term. "The Burj Al Arab, we are saying yes, it is unique and we will hold out on rates," the company's executive chairman, Gerald Lawless, said at a conference last month in Dubai. Meanwhile, Rotana has launched a particularly competitive summer campaign in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, with rates starting from $68 (Dh250) inclusive of breakfast. Special offers for long summer holidays starting from $680 (Dh2,500) per week inclusive of breakfast in hotel apartments by Rotana in Dubai and at The Cove Rotana Resort in Ras al Khaimah. Other offers are also available with specially tailored packages that combine holidays in Dubai with Fujairah and Ras al Khaimah, including free nights, dining vouchers worth $54 (Dh200), massage treatments and breakfast for $490 (Dh1,800). These offers run until Sept 15 and are available at www.rotana.com. "Despite the global situation, we were well prepared and are very optimistic this summer," said Naeem Darkazally, the area director of sales and marketing for Rotana Dubai and Northern Emirates. "Our approach is aggressive and very targeted. We are forecasting around 75 per cent occupancy this summer in our hotels in Dubai and Northern Emirates where Rotana has more than 3,500 rooms." And there are also some enticing deals in Abu Dhabi. Although the capital has fewer hotels to choose from, many are also offering special rates. Shangri-La is offering half-price rates to GCC residents in its "Summer Escape" promotion, which starts from July 1. Gulf residents will pay $116 (Dh425) for a room per night, with free breakfast for one guest and a 50 per cent reduction on breakfast for the second guest. Hilton Hotels, in Abu Dhabi and across the UAE, is offering one night free when you pay for three, two nights free when you pay for five, and three nights free when you pay for seven. With such an array of offers available across the Emirates, anyone looking for a break closer to home this year will be spoilt for choice.
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