x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

UAE hospitality industry's World Cup runneth over

Hotels in the UAE are scoring highly as World Cup fever sees football fans spend heavily on food and drinks at outlets screening matches.

Hotels in the UAE are scoring highly as World Cup fever sees football fans spend heavily on food and drinks at outlets screening matches. The sweltering heat normally makes June a tough fixture for the country's hospitality industry, but hotels say the beautiful game's most prestigious competition has created a vuvuzela-like buzz that was boosting the bottom line. "We're seeing an average of 200 people per game since the commencement of the World Cup," said Joe Zheng, the assistant director of food and beverage at the Shangri-La hotel in Abu Dhabi, which has set up an air-conditioned tent for the matches.

Hoteliers say games are also attracting new customers to their outlets, which is likely to generate repeat business. "Dubai used to be a place where people would go out seven nights a week and the effect that the recession had was that people started only going out on a Thursday night or a Friday night as they became much more conscious about how much money they spent," said CD Kotze, the food and beverage manager at Al Manzil and the Qamardeen hotels in the Downtown area of Dubai.

"Now, with the World Cup, we're full every evening at Nezesaussi [in Al Manzil]. It's really taken away that effect of people not going out that much. "There's a festival sort of attitude that people have because of the World Cup. We're really doing well this month." Mr Kotze estimated there was about a 50 per cent increase in the number of customers at the weekend as the football extravaganza got into its stride.

"With all the different countries playing, we've got different exposure to people who wouldn't normally come to a place like this," he said. "In the short and the long term, it's going to have a very good effect on my operations." Meanwhile, Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort on Jumeirah Beach erected a giant dome-shaped, airconditioned "stadium" at the Barasti Bar, which was proving a winning idea.

Derryn French, the director of marketing and communications at the hotel, said the purpose-built venue, which has a capacity of 1,200, was full in the evenings. "Summer is a quiet time for Barasti," Ms French said, adding the bar, which has most of its seating outside on the beachfront, usually fielded a much smaller airconditioned area. "Normally at Barasti at this time of year our revenues drop. Revenues have definitely increased this month compared to last year."

Elsewhere, hotels have devised other tactics to entice supporters and generate room sales. Holiday Inn Abu Dhabi has gone with a summer offer that allows customers who spend at least Dh150 (US$40.84) on food and drink at the hotel to book a room for just Dh200. "Quite a few people have used it," said Mohamed Deeb, the hotel's director of sales and marketing. "The market is full of offers so you need to do something more creative to attract people."

Mr Deeb said the hotel had also netted an increase in average spend per customer. Hotels are confident their run of good form will continue right up to the final whistle on July 11. "As you can see, me, as the food and beverage director, I'm running around without a tie on and clearing plates," said Mr Kotze. "That means that we're doing well and that puts a smile on my face." @Email:rbundhun@thenational.ae