al wasl plaza expo 2020
Short-stay homes closer to the Dubai Expo site are heading up the charts when it comes to booking enquiries. Landlords with units at Dubai South and Jumeirah Village Circle seem to be sitting pretty. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The first signs of an upcoming Expo-created boost for Dubai’s property market are already showing up – enquiries for short-term rental homes are streaming in well ahead of the October opening day. This time, locations closer to the Expo venue are generating these enquiries, including, of course, Dubai South and Jumeirah Village Circle.

What’s interesting is that these are mid-market locations in demand, while typically the short-term lets in Dubai have been dominated by pricey homes at the Palm, Dubai Marina and Downtown Dubai. A Dubai South apartment – which is the epicentre of the six-month long Expo – is having daily rates of between Dh125-Dh250. (At the top end of the Dubai short-stay market, daily rates can easily cross Dh10,000.)

Closer to October, these could see some sharp increases and which is exactly what landlords and short-term stay operators are hoping for. The enquiries are yet to “convert to bookings,” said Vinayak Mahtani, CEO of bnbme, which specialises in short-stay and holiday home leasing. “There is however a higher than usual movement happening and I believe these are Expo-related.”

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Get ahead of hotels

In the coming weeks, it will be a straight contest between short-term stay homes and hotel operators in signing up the first visitors heading to Dubai for the Expo. (Just recently, the UAE’s aviation regulator said all travellers coming in for the Expo or associated events will be allowed to fly in.)

If landlords can show their offers can be price competitive compared to a hotel stay, a sizeable portion of the bookings could come their way.

Apart from Dubai South and JVC, the Discovery Gardens’ community is the other location recording clear – and “large” - spikes in booking requests and for longer periods of time. The average stay is four nights, but now, requests are also happening for a week and more.

More to come?

Dubai has just under 10,000 active listings in the short-term rental market, while three years ago the tally was around 6,000 listings. Last year could have been a bumper year for listings had COVID-19 not intervened and led to some change of plans among landlords. But as the city inches closer to the grand opening in October, there is a buzz of anticipation coursing through the property market.

“Such a boost will touch all property types – what you see happening in luxury freehold sales and long-term rentals will filter through to short-term stays as well,” said a developer, which will have a few units ready for such bookings in the next few weeks.

According to Mahtani, there are new units added every day and “we need to remember that the tourist visiting Dubai now accepts the vacation rental market as the primary source of accommodation. Just as they do at major other tourist destinations like London, Bali and Phuket.”

Vinayak Mahtani of bnbme: "We are currently far from a over supply situation in the vacation rental industry..." Image Credit: Supplied

Not a direct fight

Mahtani reckons that short-stay focussed landlords and property companies need not get into a tug-of-war with hotels on rates and guests. “It’s a different mindset of customers and what customers want,” he added. “Staying in a hotel is very different to staying in an apartment - and both have their own sets of advantages and disadvantages.

“But, yes, more customers are starting to shift from staying in hotels to apartments and this is why you see so many hotel brands trying to enter the vacation rental space. How can one compare a hotel room to a one-bedroom apartment where you have the luxury of space and your own kitchen. And where the apartment has been set up for you personally. It’s not an apple-to-apple comparison.”