x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Sluggish corporate demand hurts Ramadan marquee firms

Lavish tents have long been a mainstay of the holy month, but big corporations have cut spending as prices rise due to summer heat.

Lavish Ramadan tents have long been a mainstay of the corporate events industry during the holy month. But as big corporations cut spending, marquee companies are feeling the pinch. "We're finding that the main reason hotels have pulled out this year has been because they've not been able to get the sponsorship," said Camilla Quinn, the client services manager at Harlequin Marquees. "We had four clients who were all quite far down the line with putting structures up, but they were all based on receiving corporate sponsorship. With all four of them it fell through at the last minute and they all completely pulled their Ramadan tents." Three of these were in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi. Ms Quinn said there had been a drop in business last year and a further decline this year. "The corporates aren't spending." She explained it had become a huge expense in recent years as Ramadan coincided with the summer. "Therefore rather than putting an open-sided canopy, all of a sudden it now has to be a closed structure, it needs to have air conditioning, it needs to have proper flooring, so the costs associated with Ramadan have increased as well, which means the sponsorship is more important," Ms Quinn said. Depending on the quality and size of the structure, the complete tent costs a minimum of between Dh200,000 (US$54,448) and Dh250,000 for a month of Ramadan. One luxury hotel in Dubai said last year it received sponsorship from a Dubai bank but was unable to secure any funding for its Ramadan tent this year and ended up covering the cost itself. The Tamani Hotel in Dubai Marina, which had a Ramadan tent last year, decided against having one this year largely because it was not profitable enough. Muin Serhan, the general manager of the hotel, said the hotel had opted to focus on outside catering at functions and was holding its iftars and suhoors in its main restaurant. "This year you could see a lack of corporate reservations," Mr Serhan said. With many people away for the summer, this has resulted in some venues reducing prices for iftars and suhoors compared with last year. The Hilton Dubai Jumeirah, which had a large tent for Ramadan last year, is this year holding its iftars and suhoors in its ballroom. Al Baddad International, another of the major companies that provide Ramadan tents, said generating business had been more challenging this year because of a decline in corporate sponsorship. "This year we were more creative," said Bilal Hamdan, the marketing manager at Al Baddad International. Mr Hamdan said this ultimately helped to boost the company's revenues this Ramadan to levels that were "not lower" than last year. The company, for example, had offered hotels a discount on their prices in exchange for their branding to be displayed at the venue. Mr Hamdan said the fact that some hotels had decided to use the structures they had set up for the FIFA World Cup as Ramadan tents had also helped business. rbundhun@thenational.ae