x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Hotels ring in New Year with occupancy optimism

With a host of celebrations planned for New Year's Eve in the UAE, the Emirates' hotels are hoping the night heralds more bookings in 2011.

The Ibn Battuta Gate Moevenpick Hotel in Dubai. Moevenpick is opening a 216-room property in Deira tomorrow. Charles Crowell for The National
The Ibn Battuta Gate Moevenpick Hotel in Dubai. Moevenpick is opening a 216-room property in Deira tomorrow. Charles Crowell for The National

Hotels in the Emirates are hoping healthy bookings over the festive period will continue into next year.

Many will be helping guests see in the New Year tonight with fireworks displays and gala dinners.

Events on offer at the UAE's luxury hotels cost from a few hundred dirhams a head to as much as Dh7,450 (US$2,028) per person for access to a high-end reception, gala dinner and a party at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai.

Atlantis The Palm, meanwhile, is offering a beachfront gala dinner for Dh2,500 and has a range of celebratory meal offers at its various restaurants, which include Nobu.

The 1,539-room hotel reports it is fully booked from Christmas Eve until the end of the first week of January.

"We plan for New Year's Eve in the evening to serve about 5,200 covers," said Serge Zaalof, the chief operating officer at Atlantis The Palm.

"This is very positive for 2011. Everybody is smiling in the hotel."

He said occupancy levels this month were about 11 per cent higher than in December last year, and he expected occupancy rates to rise next year.

"I think people are travelling a bit more. I would say Dubai overall is recovering well over the last six months as far as tourism is concerned," he said.

Hoteliers in Dubai are reporting an increase in visitors from India and China.

Guy Epsom, the director of business development at Moevenpick Hotels and Resorts in the emirate, said the company's Ibn Battuta Gate hotel in Dubai was fully booked for New Year's Eve. The hotel has also sold about two thirds of its allocation of tickets for its festive dinner, priced at Dh650 per person.

"We've been overwhelmed by the amount of business that has come in for the New Year period."

The first two months of next year were looking positive because of business generated by conferences and the fact that airlines were opening up new destinations that were bringing in more tourists, he said.

The performance of hotels throughout the year, however, would largely depend on the entry of new properties into the market and whether that outpaced the increase in demand.

Moevenpick is opening a 216-room property in Deira tomorrow.

"I think the biggest challenge is going to be the summer," Mr Epsom said. "I think there will be a very acute price war."

In Abu Dhabi, a number of hotel openings are scheduled next year including Park Hyatt and Jumeirah hotels. Cristal, an operator based in Abu Dhabi, yesterday announced plans to open the Cristal Salam Hotel, its second hotel in the capital, in the first quarter next year.

"Amid challenging trading performances for a large number of properties, the destination continues to take shape slowly," said Chiheb ben Mahmoud, the senior vice president at Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels in the Middle East and Africa.

"There is strong back bone to the hospitality sector in Abu Dhabi."

The Fairmont Bab Al Bahr is also hoping that its New Year bookings are a positive indicator for next year.

"At Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, occupancies over this period, including New Year's Eve, is very robust, given the fact that the hotel has very attractive offers for guests visiting the destination at this time," said Arshad Hussain, the director of sales and marketing at the Abu Dhabi hotel.

"The second half of the year will prove to be challenging given the amount of room inventory to come on stream, not only in the capital, but also the region."