x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Hotels prepare dry Valentine's day

Alcohol will be illegal on February 14 - so hotels move offers forward a day.

Hotels across the UAE will be dry for Valentine’s Day this year, as it coincides with the Prophet’s birthday.

The Prophet’s birthday falls on February 15; it is usually illegal to serve alcohol the day before.

The Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing confirmed yesterday that hotels would not be allowed to serve alcohol on February 14.

The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority also confirmed that the 14th will be a dry night in the capital.A spokesperson said a “circular to hotels is in the system and they will receive it within the next few days”.

Many hotels, keen not to miss out on a prime opportunity to generate extra, have responded by moving their Valentine’s offers forward a day. Every year, an array of packages and promotions are offered, some costing up to $1 million.

“We have moved some of our dining offers to the previous day, Sunday 13 February,” said Aditi Daga, a spokeswoman for the InterContinental Dubai Festival City hotel.

But it is offering one package costing Dh50,000 throughout the month.This includes a limo pick-up, and a boat ride to the hotel.

“Be dazzled as your name and hers are up in lights on the façade of the building as you approach it by boat,” the hotel says.

Following the couple’s arrival, they will receive a spa treatment in the a private suites, along with caviar. The champagne available on other days will be replaced on the 14th with sparkling grape juice.

Guests will also be treated to a dinner in the Pierre Gagnaire Reflets restaurant’s private dining room, then an overnight stay in a suite.

Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi last year offered a $1 million Valentine’s holiday package.

As well as seven nights in the hotel, it included first-class return flights, a private helicopter trip into the desert, and a tour of the Yas Marina Circuit racetrack.

For – slightly – thriftier customers, it also offered Dh495,000 package with three nights at the hotel, and a seven-course dinner in the couple’s private suite, as well as shopping vouchers, roses, pearls, and gold.

Emirates Palace said it was still drawing up plans for this year, adding that it would of course comply with any regulations.

The Fairmont Bab Al Bahr hotel in Abu Dhabi is offering packages costing up to Dh4,999, which include an opportunity to find a Dh6,000 pearl in your dessert.

Betty Riachy, at the Jumeira Rotana hotel in Dubai, said the dry Valentine’s day would “have an impact”. It, too, has moved some of its promotions to the 13th. “Last year it was really successful,” she added.

Dania Malki, head of communication at the Intercontinental Abu Dhabi, said that although some would be disappointed, “people can manage, it’s really not that big of a deal”.

“We have to respect the country we’re in; there’s always the weekend. The celebration does not have to be exactly on the night of the 14th,” she said.

The Renaissance Dubai Hotel is also ready to acclimatise. Yasmine Hidalgo, marketing communications director at the hotel, said alcohol would not be served for 24 hours from 6pm on the 14th.

“We will have a celebration on the 13th, and on the 15th, and an option on the 14th that does not include alcohol or live entertainment,” she said. “It’s ok, it will work out.”

However, she admitted the hotel had received complaints from customers. “They call us, they are wondering what will happen, because it is a big night for us and them, but we promise them they will still have a wonderful time.”

Husam and Christine Shaheen, who have been living in Abu Dhabi for two years, had been looking forward to this Valentine’s Day in particular – their first as a married couple following their June wedding.

The Lebanese couple had planned to go out for a romantic dinner, with candlelight, dancing and a glass or two of wine, and perhaps stay overnight at a hotel in the capital. “I think we would rather celebrate at home now,” said Mr Shaheen.

But for Samer al Naber, a Palestinian engineer living in Dubai, the disappointment is minimal.

“My fiancé and I were going to celebrate Valentine’s this year over the weekend, since the 14th is on a Monday, right in the middle of the week,” he said.

“Plus we don’t really need alcohol to have a romantic celebration, so who cares?”