posted on 19/08/2012: 615 views
Hoteliers are forecasting bumper business this Eid Al Fitr as unrest in other parts of the Middle East directs tourists to the UAE and discourages residents from jetting abroad.
Following a dearth of visitors over the past few weeks as Ramadan coincided with the hot summer months, many hotels are now predicting occupancy higher than 90 per cent for the holiday period, with revenues exceeding Eid last year.
"What's happened in the Middle East countries, such as Libya, Syria, Egypt and recently Lebanon has minimised the travel options for a lot of GCC residents who are reluctant to travel to these places," said Omer Kaddouri, the chief operating officer for the UAE at Rotana Hotels, which has 30 properties in the country. "Hence there's more attention to local and domestic travel."
The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar all warned their citizens to avoid travel to Lebanon last week as rioters blocked the road and burnt tyres in the capital Beirut.
Rotana expects its leisure hotels in Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah to exceed occupancy levels of 90 per cent, while hotels next to shopping centres in Dubai are running at 100 per cent for Eid.
"There was a slight decline in visitors to the country during Ramadan as GCC holidaymakers spent the Holy Month at home, European tourists were discouraged by the summer heat and corporate activity slowed," said Mr Kaddouri. "However, we have witnessed a better Ramadan compared to 2010."
Dubai and Abu Dhabi have already greeted record numbers of tourists this year.
The capital welcomed 980,000 guests into hotels in the first five months of the year, which translated to double-digit growth compared with the same period last year.
Dubai expects to exceed 10 million visitors this year, having enjoyed a 9 per cent increase in the first quarter.
"Atlantis The Palm is seeing strong Eid bookings," said Brett Armitage, the senior vice president of sales at Atlantis. "We currently have strong forward bookings for the Eid holidays and we are expecting to be fully booked as families and friends come together to celebrate Eid."
Hilton Hotels also said occupancy levels and revenues would be higher this Eid than last year.
"What we are looking at is we are very close to capacity," said Essam Abouda, the vice president for the Arabian Peninsula at Hilton. "Eid for us is a high-occupancy season and there's a high volume of international and regional travel."
Hotels in Abu Dhabi also anticipate a busy holiday period, particularly with residents taking "staycations".
Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara expected to be fully booked and the Tilal Liwa Hotel reported it was currently booked at 85 per cent occupancy.
"The main contingent of guests is UAE nationals and expatriates from Abu Dhabi and Dubai," said Ayman Ashor, the general manager for the Tilal Liwa. "We have been receiving a lot of calls and now that the dates are declared in the newspaper the calls have doubled."
Mr Ashor expects revenue per available room, a key industry indicator, to be higher this Eid than last year, at Dh650 (US$176) to Dh700.
Of tourists coming into the country, hoteliers expect Saudi visitors to make up the biggest proportion of guests.
"Saudi tourists always generate the largest volume of business to Dubai," said Moussa El Hayek, the chief operating officer for Al Bustan Centre and Residence. "However, this year we are expecting that the number of Saudi tourists will be more than before due to the turmoil in other Arab countries that used to be our direct competitors."
John Beveridge, the general manager at the Grand Hyatt in Dubai, also said Saudi tourists would be flocking to the city this Eid in numbers.
"During Eid and GCC holidays, there is a strong presence of Saudi travellers," he said. "We expect the hotel and indeed the market to see higher demand this season." – The National
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