x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Hotels in the Emirates gear up for Saudi Arabia spring break

Families from the kingdom set to pour into the Emirates, with Saudi Arabian travellers the largest source market for Dubai.

A Saudi customer at a jewelry shop in Dubai. Guests from the kingdom are among the highest spenders in the UAE. Kamran Jebreili / AP Photo
A Saudi customer at a jewelry shop in Dubai. Guests from the kingdom are among the highest spenders in the UAE. Kamran Jebreili / AP Photo

Hotels in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are gearing up for the Saudi school break when families from the kingdom pour into the Emirates.

Saudi Arabian travellers remain the largest source market for Dubai. Last year, 1.35 million guests from the kingdom – or 12 per cent of Dubai’s total tourist numbers – checked into the emirate’s hotels and hotel apartments.

Starting yesterday, properties such as Tamani Marina Hotel in Dubai and Grand Millennium Hotel Al Wahda Mall in Abu Dhabi are sprucing up their apartments for the influx.

Tamani Marina Hotel is expecting an increase of 5 per cent in Saudi families over last year over the period. Saudi visitors form 8 per cent of its overall guest numbers.

The Sharia-compliant luxury hotel, where a nightly room costs Dh1,200, has 245 apartments with two to four bedrooms.

Special arrangements such as “family breakfast, kids’ play area, special menu for children, [as well as] certified baby sitters are now available,” said Sherif Elibrashi, the director of sales at the hotel. The average length of stay for the Saudi guests is between four and six nights.

Close proximity to leisure and entertainment destinations such as Jumeirah Beach Walk, the malls and Wild Wadi waterpark are bonuses for the hotels.

“Tourists coming from Saudi Arabia are very important to us, and we definitely see an increase every time they have school or public holidays,” said a spokesman at the aqua park.

At Grand Millennium Al Wahda, apartments are going fast. The hotel has 258 apartments with one to three bedrooms.

“This is a high demand period, especially for the apartment side,” said Marwan Mseikeh, the hotel manager. “Their first preference is Dubai but then they like to drop in for two to three days to Abu Dhabi.”

About 40 per cent of the hotel’s total guests in a year are from the Arabian Gulf and of that some 10 per cent are from Saudi Arabia.

“We are attached to the mall and Saudi guests like to go shopping, they need the cinema and the food court,” Mr Mseikeh said.

Saudi guests are among the highest spenders in the UAE. In 2012, 1.12 million Saudi guests spent US$420.4 million on their Visa cards. Total spending rose 28.8 per cent over the previous year.

Continuing unrest elsewhere in the Middle East is expected to maintain the UAE and Dubai’s reputation as a safe destinations to visit.

“I would guess that [tourist] numbers once again would increase substantially to around 12 to 13 million [this year in Dubai] given the unrest in the region, which is fuelling more visitors who may otherwise have visited countries such as Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Libya and Iran,” said Leo Fewtrell, the general manager for Dubai Travel and Tour Agents Group.

“Added to this there is an increase in hotel rooms covering not only five-star, but more affordable three and four-star properties.”

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