Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 August 2019

Ramadan businesses: how tent companies survive outside the holy month

Ramadan is arguably the most important month for many tent rental businesses

Arabian Tents, one of the UAE's biggest tent companies, has previously supplied structures for blockbuster Hollywood movies including Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National 
Arabian Tents, one of the UAE's biggest tent companies, has previously supplied structures for blockbuster Hollywood movies including Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National 

Ramadan is a busy time of year for many companies, but businesses that rent tents to host Iftar and Suhoor events at hotels, mosques and homes benefit more than most.

In the weeks leading up to the holy month, hundreds, if not thousands, of tents are erected across the UAE in preparation for the occasion.

Because of this, the month is often the busiest of the entire year for the firms involved.

Al Ameera Tents and Shades, an Abu Dhabi company, falls into this category. But, although it may be the busiest, it is not always the most profitable.

“In Ramadan we slash our prices out of respect,” said Danish Bin Shakeel, the company’s general manager.

“Our main business during Ramadan is not to earn money, but to give away as much as possible.

“At least if we cover our costs, that’s fair enough. Sometimes people have given us Dh200 [per tent] per square metre. We have brought that down to Dh90 or Dh75.”

This year, the company has rented out five large tents, each with the capacity to cater for around 1,000 people.

But Ramadan is not the only high point of the year for Al Ameera, which has to bring in extra staff during busy periods to cope with the demand.

The UAE’s National Day celebrations are also a big earner, and during the summer, parking shades are a staple part of its business.

“The tent business is very seasonal,” said Mr Shakeel. “But there are still weddings going on and events.”

Ramadan is arguably more significant for smaller companies as they tend to rely on the month more for income, but even for the bigger tent businesses, it remains important.

Arabian Tents, based in Sharjah, has seen enquiries soar this summer. The company rented 40 tents to businesses and private individuals, up from around 30 last year, making it its busiest period.

And the summer season is already big for Arabian Tents due to the increased demand for parking shades and orders from construction companies, which are among its biggest customers.

“When the temperature goes up they do not allow people to work from 10am till 3pm,” said Adeeb Al Ayedi, managing director of Arabian Tents.

“So the workers rest at the site. They don’t take them back to the camp because it would cost a lot of money.

“So they keep a tent at the site and serve them food.”

Over the years the firm has also catered to another type of customer: Hollywood film crews.

The company has provided structures for blockbuster Hollywood movies, including Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Star Wars required setting up tents in 18 locations.

But despite its variety of clients, it still has quiet periods.

“It is a little bit quiet from January to February,” said Mr Adeeb. “Maybe all of the companies are just doing budgets for the next year or they are still working on last year’s, but it is a little bit quiet. After February, business picks up again.”

Yet the real winners of the tent rental businesses are the ones which cater for events.

Events season in the UAE is busy, and long, starting in September and typically lasting right up until Ramadan.

As a manufacturing company which makes its own tents here in the UAE, and can therefore cater to any requirement, Al Fares International Tents does extremely well during the season.

So well, in fact, that it can be even busier than Ramadan for Al Fares - and that is saying something.

Al Fares has rented out 300 tents this Ramadan with some going to hotels, some to private individuals and some used by Emirates Red Crescent, which has hired large tents in three locations: Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Al Ain.

In total, it has 250,000sqm of tent structures at its disposal. Yet during events season even that is not always enough.

Because of its capacity to cater for the even the largest event, Al Fares is in high demand. In recent months it has provided tents for large events such as Gov Games, a first of its kind government competition to promote creative collaboration and reinforce team spirit among government employees, and the Special Olympics.

“Sometimes, during the events season especially, there are more enquiries than stock,” said Lusine Mansuryan, events coordinator for Al Fares.

“So we have to manufacture some tents within two or three days and send to the site.”

Updated: May 25, 2019 01:46 PM