x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Eid holiday boosts UAE hotels

Hotels in the UAE see business pick up after a slow August, with GCC tourists and staycations helping to boost bookings during Eid.

Occupancy levels during this Eid were above 90 per cent at Rotana's leisure hotels, including this one in Ras Al Khaimah. Jeff Topping / The National
Occupancy levels during this Eid were above 90 per cent at Rotana's leisure hotels, including this one in Ras Al Khaimah. Jeff Topping / The National

Gulf tourists flocking to the UAE and residents taking "staycations" amid instability elsewhere in the region helped hotels enjoy a significant improvement in business this Eid compared with last year.

After a slowdown in tourist arrivals during the past few weeks, as Ramadan coincided with the typically slow month of August, many hotels in the UAE reported a surge in bookings for the Eid break.

"I think what's happened in the Middle East countries, such as Libya, Syria, Egypt, has minimised the travel options for a lot of GCC residents," said Naeem Darkazally, the vice president for sales and revenue at Rotana Hotels. "They're reluctant to travel to these places, and hence there's more attention to local and domestic travel."

Mr Darkazally said that at Rotana's leisure hotels, including those in Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah, occupancy levels were above 90 per cent. In Dubai, hotels close to shopping malls performed strongly, with occupancy levels pushing 100 per cent in some cases, he said.

Many UAE residents, expatriates and nationals alike, chose to holiday within the UAE for the Eid break, the hotelier said. There was also a strong flow of business from the GCC, with an influx of guests from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar in particular.

Mr Darkazally said that as a result, some of Rotana's hotels in Dubai had benefited from a 30 per cent increase in revenue per available room, a key industry indicator, compared with Eid last year. He explained this was because of an increase in room rates and high occupancy levels.

Hotels in the UAE launched an array of special packages for Eid. There was a sharp decline in visitors to the country during Ramadan, as GCC holidaymakers spent the holy month at home, European tourists were discouraged by the summer heat, and corporate activity slowed.

At the Samaya Hotel in Deira, Dubai, occupancy fell to about 35 per cent during Ramadan. But during Eid, room bookings surged, pushing occupancy up to 75 to 80 per cent.

As well as a flood of guests from the GCC, a number of tourists also arrived from Iran, said Fouad Bizri, the hotel's general manager.

"They're coming for the shopping and the celebration since there is a holiday," Mr Bizri said.

Major exhibitions and conferences are expected to generate a strong flow of business for hotels in Dubai during the last quarter of the year.

The Ramada Downtown hotel was almost full during the Eid break.

"It is far better than last year," said Wael El Behi, the executive assistant manager at the hotel. "In a week from now, the schools will start, so those who could travel during the whole month of Ramadan have had the opportunity to come to Dubai to do some shopping."

This was a significant increase in business compared with Ramadan, when occupancy at the hotel averaged 65 per cent, he said.

rbundhun@thenational.ae