Dubai: Dubai hotels hit an occupancy rate of 90 per cent in March, the final month of the Expo 2020 run. And they are hoping the upcoming Eid holidays will take them closer to the 90 per cent magic figure. But will that happen?
For one, the hospitality sector will be facing intense competition from overseas destinations, with COVID-19 restrictions no longer present on the most popular routes. “We are seeing more demand for outbound travel as residents’ sentiments change and they prefer using the long Eid break to explore different destinations outside UAE,” said Raheesh Babu, Chief Operating Officer, Musafir.com, which is an online travel platform. (The Eid holidays will likely start May 2.)
However, demand for Dubai’s luxury hotels is still very much there. “This time we are seeing decent demand for more high-end staycation packages in locations such as Palm Jumeirah,” said Babu.
For a stay from May 2-3, there are packages for Palm hotels starting from Dh3,000. There are the less expensive options too from Dh1,800, according to travel portals. For those not inclined to take up a package, a day’s stay during Eid can be had from under Dh700 and then go all the way up.
Over the last two years, staycations were the biggest revenue generator for hotels over the Eid period, given all the COVID-19 related limits on travel in most countries. So, this year, represents quite a departure, and that’s why there is some adjusting to do – for travellers and hotels.
Some post-Expo adjustments
Dubai hotel operators had some serious work to do in making sure that after March’s sky-high occupancy, April did not come across as a relative dud. “Dubai is fresh off of a phenomenal final month of Expo that pushed hotel occupancy to a 15-year high (of 90 per cent),” said Philip Wooller, STR’s area director for the Middle East & Africa. “As expected, April levels have been lower but still trending above 60 per cent, which is quite healthy for a Ramadan period and a good indicator for a successful Eid.”
Bookings for the opening days of May are already above the 50 per cent mark. “Based on those levels, as well as last year’s Eid peak and a tendency toward shorter booking windows in the market, we should see solid performance during the holiday.”
The hotel industry analyst further added that despite a lot of international departures, the overall movement across the region will benefit Dubai before the summer phase.
UK-based Premier Inn, which recently opened its 11th hotel in the Middle East – at Barsha in Dubai - is seeing an uptick in Eid bookings. “As the UAE continues to lead the way in bouncing back after the pandemic, there’s strong demand this Eid,” said Simon Leigh, Managing Director, Premier Inn MENA. “A steady flow of bookings is from guests across the GCC; the search numbers on our website are high, and we’re expecting a surge in last minute bookings as people finalise their plans.”
The operator’s new hotel in Dubai opened with a 100 per cent occupancy on the first night. “We’re gearing up for high demand at this property – and others across the region – this Eid and beyond,” said Leigh.
Musafir’s Babu said that with the Expo over, tourist numbers were down by 30-35 per cent over the previous quarter. Expo 2020 Dubai, the largest event to be hosted by the UAE, attracted more than 23 million visitors.
Meanwhile, Dubai’s top hotels continue to trend on Instagram and elsewhere. According to the tracker Inkifi, Burj Al Arab is the most featured hotel on Instagram with 2.55 million posts. “This tower strikes an impressive figure as it sits on its very own island, providing guests with scenic views of Dubai and the Arabian Gulf,” said the company in its study. (For the record, Burj Al Arab – one of Dubai’s most recognizable landmarks – has rooms starting from Dh7,425 this Eid.)
Atlantis, The Palm has featured in more than 570,000 Instagram posts and took the fifth spot on Inkifi’s list. All of the Palm’s hotels and Dubai’s other luxury hotels will have more Instagram posts to contribute come the Eid holidays.