x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

UAE one of the most popular markets worldwide, says Booking.com chief executive

Mecca is Booking.com's top destination in the Middle East, followed by Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

The UAE is one of the most popular markets worldwide for the hotel website Booking.com, its chief executive says.

"Both as a destination and a source of bookers it is one of our most highly penetrated markets," Darren Huston said at the summit yesterday. "We are very popular here."

The company, based in the Netherlands, has been running since the mid-1990s but in the Middle East for only about five years.

Mr Huston said Booking.com's popularity in the region was partly because the website was in a number of languages, including Arabic.

"We support 41 languages, so people can use Booking.com in Arabic and they might not even know we are a Dutch company," he said. "They might think it's a local product."

Mecca is Booking.com's top destination in the Middle East, followed by Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

More than 400 hotels in Dubai are available on Booking.com, and about 100 in the capital.

Mr Huston said about 65 per cent of bookings made in the Middle East were for travellers within the region.

And most of the UAE hotel bookings from outside the region come from Europe and Asia.

"I'm pretty bullish [about the Middle East]," Mr Huston said. "I am not a hotel investor. It is more, 'can our customers find hotel rooms in this part of the world?'

"The answer is yes, almost any time of the year."

gduncan@thenational.ae