x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Saudi guests help to lift capital's hotel figures

A 90 per cent increase in visitors from Saudi Arabia as regional unrest changes travel patterns, plus exhibitions and events, boosted Abu Dhabi's hotel guest numbers by 17 per cent last month compared with February last year.

The Rotana Hotel and Centro Hotel on Yas Island. Major events held in the capital helped to boost visitor numbers last month.
The Rotana Hotel and Centro Hotel on Yas Island. Major events held in the capital helped to boost visitor numbers last month.

A 90 per cent increase in visitors from Saudi Arabia helped boost Abu Dhabi's hotel guest numbers by 17 per cent last month compared with February last year.

Hoteliers attributed the rise in Saudi visitors to unrest in other countries around the region, while the visitor numbers were also lifted by a host of exhibitions.

Hotels in the emirate recorded 175,309 guests last month, according to figures released by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA).

"The year-on-year February increase has been primarily driven by major events held in the emirate including the Idex international defence show, the Al Ain Aerobatic Show and Gourmet Abu Dhabi," said Lawrence Franklin, the strategy and policy director at the ADTA.

Hotel occupancy rose 16 per cent to 77 per cent in the period. Total revenue increased by 24 per cent to Dh440 million (US$120.5m), and the average length of stay increased 10 per cent to 2.99 nights.

"There is also some evidence of shifting demand resulting from regional issues, with hotel guests from Saudi Arabia rising by 90 per cent, while there has been a tailing off of hotel guests from Qatar and Oman," Mr Franklin said.

Last month, 6,950 visitors from Saudi Arabia stayed in Abu Dhabi hotels. Rotana, which has more hotels in the emirate than any other operator, noted a marked increase in the number of guests from the kingdom. Henning Fries, the general manager of the Fairmont Bab Al Bahrin Abu Dhabi, said although he had not noticed a "huge impact" from the kingdom at his hotel last month, there had been a noticeable increase in the number of guests from the GCC.

"GCC is definitely picking up overall," Mr Fries said.

Idex was an important factor in the growth, with many hotels enjoying full occupancy during the week of the exhibition, he said. "Even outside of Idex, you saw a good shift upwards in the market overall in February."

Some business might have been diverted to Abu Dhabi because of unrest in countries, Mr Fries said.

"Especially in the case of Bahrain and other areas, people have diverted some of their meetings," he said. "Dubai has enjoyed a last-minute shift of business over there, and we've had a little bit of that over here as well. March also looks quite promising."

Although growing from a relatively low level, the number of visitors from Russia also surged, rising 88 per cent to 1,561, the ADTA said.

Food and beverage revenue at the emirate's 115 hotels and hotel apartments increased by 20 per cent last month compared with February last year to Dh142.9m.

But some hoteliers in Abu Dhabi fearregional unrest might impair bookings from Europe as the peak travel season approaches.

rbundhun@thenational.ae