x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Thousands make most of three-day weekend

Hotels report their busiest weekend of the summer, with many fully booked, while airlines see a surge in short-haul flights.

A young girl takes in the sights in the Shark Lagoon at the Aquaventure water park at the Atlantis hotel on Palm Jumeirah in Dubai.
A young girl takes in the sights in the Shark Lagoon at the Aquaventure water park at the Atlantis hotel on Palm Jumeirah in Dubai.

Hotels and resorts around the country reported some of the best business of the summer this weekend as many residents chose to take advantage of the long weekend. From Al Gharbia in the west to Oman in the east, thousands of residents took three-day breaks, giving a welcome boost to tourism during the summer's quiet spell.

Many travellers flew to nearby locations including Amman, Cairo, Beirut and Muscat to enjoy the break, which was announced last week. Thomas Clarke, a spokesman for Etihad Airways in the capital, said that there was a surge in bookings as soon as the long weekend, which marks the ascent of the Prophet Mohammed, was announced at the middle of last week. "Demand, especially for short-haul flights, has certainly risen this week and was driven by the long weekend.

"Destinations across the region have seen an increase in traffic for the weekend, and in general there has been a pickup recently." Marissa Garcia, from Ajman's Kempinski Hotel, said the hotel had enjoyed its busiest weekend of the summer, with all of its rooms occupied. She added that many had booked their stays at the hotel, which is close to neighbouring Sharjah and Dubai, after the holiday was announced.

The Desert Islands Resort on Sir Bani Yas Island, which was developed as a royal retreat for Sheikh Zayed, the founder of the nation, with the hotel opening at the end of last year, was also fully booked. Its general manager, Andre Erasmus, said: "People are definitely making the most of the long weekend. "We've seen a rise in the number of bookings since we launched our summer packages at the start of July but once the long weekend was announced, that certainly helped see us through to a full house."

He said its guests were a mixture of nationals and expatriates wanting to spend their time in the UAE rather than spend money on flights abroad. "The temperature here is a good few degrees cooler than in Abu Dhabi and Dubai," he added. "People have still been sitting around the pool though and enjoying the beach." The Atlantis hotel on Dubai's Palm Jumeirah reported that its 1,539 rooms were fully booked, with many more visiting its water park, Aquaventure. Many of its guests have been coming to the emirate from around the region and Europe but with the long weekend, a large number of UAE guests have checked in.

Brett Armitage, from the hotel's sales division, said: "Atlantis, The Palm is seeing extremely healthy occupancy this summer. "July will close at an average of 92 per cent, with most weekends completely sold out, including this past long holiday weekend. "We are seeing approximately 45 per cent of our summer business come from throughout the GCC, while Europe accounts for approximately another 45 per cent."

In Oman, Khasab's Golden Tulip, a two-hour drive from Dubai on the Musandam peninsular, said around half its guests had come from the UAE. Nearby, the Six Senses Spa in Zighy reported an increase in business for the holiday weekend with around half its guests coming from around the UAE. A spokesman for the hotel said: "It's not been our busiest weekend of the summer as we were very busy in June, but certainly for the month of July this has been our peak."The Wild Wadi water park in Dubai was also popular, as was the Summer in Abu Dhabi show at the National Exhibition Centre.

Tourism is the UAE has stayed buoyant in spite of the global economic downturn. While Middle East tourism saw an 18 per cent fall during the first quarter of 2009, in the UAE it grew by three per cent, according to the UN World Tourism Organisation. mswan@thenational.ae