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Towers at Downtown Dubai. The Downtown, in particular, has been a favoured spot for shortterm rentals. Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: All holiday-home visits to the Downtown Dubai will no longer be welcome from September 19, after a statement issued by Emaar, the master-developer, to this effect on Wednesday.

“The change in policy comes in the light of several requests and resident complaints on disturbances and related inconveniences due to holiday home operations,” said a statement issued by the developer’s Community Management Team. “In the recent past, there has been a growing concern as holiday homes have been used for non-residential and non-family oriented activities, impacting the value and neighbourhood spirit of our communities.”

But the move has not gone down well with operators of holiday homes/short-term stays, a concept that has taken off worldwide on Airbnb’s arrival. The Downtown, in particular, has been a favoured spot for short-term rentals, as are the Palm and Dubai Marina. In fact, the holiday home/short-term rental category has been one of the standout performers within the broader real estate market in Dubai over the last 12-18 months.

It was felt that at a time when the long-term rental market has been under pressure, short-term stays offer landlords of well managed properties a steady income and less of a threat from falling rents. Not just holiday stays, it is also popular with business travellers who are looking for options other than hotels.

Sizeable encouragement

Dubai government agencies too have provided the space for such operations to grow, a point that is reiterated by Vinayak Mahtani, CEO of bnbme, one of the leading homegrown names in the short-term rental space. “Dubai and DTCM (Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing) have done a super job with hotels... and I’m sure they will get it right with holiday homes as well,” Mahtani said. “The benchmark for holiday home operators must be set by DTCM... not developers.

“Maybe, a grading or points system should be considered depending on the quality of service offered. These things need to be set down and discussed.” The way the concept works is quite simple. Landlords list properties they want to lease short-term with dedicated platforms such as bnbme or Airbnb. Or the platform could have its own curated properties, featuring super-premium residences rented out for Dh5,000 a day and well upwards.


But as more holiday homes got listed, particularly at some of the established communities, it did set off concerns among the full-time residents there about privacy and related matters. Owners Associations also intervened, saying that in some instances, short-term visitors were accessing services such as the pool or gym for which they were not paying.

The Emaar decision on making the Downtown a no-go zone for holiday-homes will further raise the heat. The notice it issued Wednesday states that “existing holiday home operators and units will be considered invalid with effect from this date (September 19), and no new holiday home operations will be permitted.”

Market sources say the question now is whether Emaar or some of the other master-developers in Dubai will follow the same practice at other developments. If they do, it would cut off the momentum behind short-term stays in one stroke. Emaar has not issued a media statement on any such plans. (Emaar, ironically, launched its own holiday home services on Wednesday under the “Ease by Emaar” banner. The service will allow property owners at Emaar developments to put up their unit in the market for such short-term leases.)

According to Mahtani, discussions with developers would help resolve the impasse. “I think what Emaar are trying to do is improve the quality of visitors, whether short-term or longer. But I am not sure I can agree with the way they are trying to go about this.

“Simply banning all holiday homes puts out the wrong signal to investors. I have said this before - developers need to work closer together with operators of holiday homes. We can all come up with set guidelines that benefit both the community, investors and operators. There is always a way to be in harmony.”