Lack of traffic from Qatar will not affect the business as holiday bookings swell
UAE hotels look to Eid business boon
Hotels in the UAE, the second-biggest economy in the Arabian Gulf region and the top business and commercial hub of the wider Middle East, are gearing up for a four-day revenue bonanza as the country prepares to welcome flocks of tourists from the GCC and beyond, pushing hotel occupancies to almost maximmum over the Eid Al Adha holidays.
The country's hospitality sector, which looks to capitalise on long holidays and breaks for festive seasons to compensate for slower business cycles during the year, may get a more than 10 per cent increase in occupancy rates, industry analysts say.
“These holidays have always been very beneficial for the hospitality sector in terms of the business boost. There is always a visible difference in terms of the number of guests arriving in from neighbouring GCC countries, which have traditionally been the main markets for the hotels in the UAE,” said Shahzad Butt, the general manager at Ramada Downtown, part of the UAE-based operator R Hotels. “We were full last year and we expect to be booked fully this year, which compares to our average 86 per cent occupancy throughout the year.”
The expected windfall is not limited to Eid Al Adha. The number of guests arriving in Abu Dhabi during June swelled by a remarkable 30 per cent compared with the corresponding period last year, boosted by an exceptional Eid Al Fitr holiday period, according to Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority data. The rise in June numbers has lifted the cumulative first half-year 2017 guest arrivals figure to more than 2.25 million, a 7 per cent year-on-year growth, Saif Saeed Ghobash, director general of the authority said in its monthly hospitality sector report.
Sharjah also reported improved occupancy rates and revenues, partly boosted by festive breaks and a campaign by the emirate to place it as the region's prime cultural and family holiday destination. Sharjah’s hospitality sector revenues climbed 7.8 per cent year-on-year during the first half of 2017, with revenues for the period reaching Dh372 million, according to Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority statistics. Dubai, which is showing signs of improving business as its economy stabilises, has received more than 9 million visitors during the first seven months of this year, up from 8.4 million visitors for the same period of 2016. The year-to-date hotel occupancy in the emirates remained flat at about 77 per cent when compared with the corresponding period last year.
Industry experts say the lack of traffic from Qatar during this festive season will not prove to be a dampener. The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt on June 5 severed diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism and meddling into their internal affair. Doha has denied the accusation but the quartet has barred Qatari citizens.
“Qatar was not a big chunk of the GCC traffic so it is not a massive loss in terms of business and revenues during holiday period. We are seeing gains from the other GCC markets already so that hardly matters,” Mr butt said, adding that Saudi Arabia and Oman remained the biggest GCC markets for the hospitality sector in the UAE.
Hotels that are attached to major shopping malls are in high demand but the real pull is the three and four-star properties in the country, according to industry experts, who added that the growing market of "staycations" in the UAE has also helped to offset any decline in the number of guests from outside the UAE. Hotels, whether in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, or relatively smaller destinations such as Fujairah and Ras Al Kahaima, are making concerted efforts to promote themselves in the UAE as much as they market themselves outside the country, according to Mr Butt.