x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Hotels enjoy bumper start to the year

Abu Dhabi's hotels saw a 10 per cent increase in guests in the first quarter, new figures show.

The number of hotel guests staying in Abu Dhabi increased 10 per cent in the first quarter compared with the same period last year. Events held in the capital, diverted travel plans because of regional unrest and business exhibitions helped to boost the figures.

A total of 510,114 guests stayed in the first three months of this year, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (Adta) reported yesterday.

"All in all it was a very good first quarter for us," said Adrian Deegan, the area director of sales at Rotana Hotels, which manages more properties in the capital than any other operator. "In February we had a couple of exhibitions that yielded better revenues for the hotels. There seem to be quite a lot of projects taking place, which is bringing quite a lot of business into the city."

Adta said there were 1.56 million guest nights in the first quarter, up 25 per cent on the same period last year. Last month there was a 9 per cent rise in hotel guests, as 180,931 visitors checked into hotels in Abu Dhabi. The emirate is aiming to attract 2 million guests this year, up from 1.81 million last year.

"We've seen a small increase in leisure because there were holidaymakers planning to go to places like Egypt who then looked for somewhere safe in the Middle East," said Mr Deegan. "But most of this business goes to Dubai and the Northern Emirates." The company also picked up some conference business that was diverted from Bahrain, he said.

Other hoteliers said there had been cancellations because of the unrest, but this was outweighed by the business gained because of it. The first-quarter performance "can be attributed to the dynamic programme of events, both business and leisure", said Lawrence Franklin, the director of strategy and policy at Adta, adding concerts on Yas Island had been a major draw.

Occupancy stood at 72 per cent in the first quarter, with total room revenues climbing 6 per cent to Dh679 million (US$184.8m). Food and beverage revenue were up 12 per cent to Dh433m.

But average room rates were down 15 per cent in the first quarter. This "is largely attributed to increased competition in the Abu Dhabi market which now boasts 18,800 hotel rooms with a further 4,000 due … by the end of the year", Adta said.

Guests are staying longer in Abu Dhabi, with the average length of stay three nights, up 13 per cent.

India was the second-largest overseas source market after the UK, with 23,614 guests from the country in the first quarter, up 28 per cent on last year. Saudi Arabia was the main GCC source market, with 13,119 guests, up 44 per cent.

rbundhun@thenational.ae