Stock - Sharjah Hotels
The buzz is back... Leading hotel operators are getting ready to welcome first guests at new destinations. Image Credit: Shurooq

Dubai: UAE hotel operators are slowly getting back to new openings.

Emaar Hospitality, which is making its first moves outside of Dubai, will have the Vida Bahrain up and running shortly. But before that will be the presence of the company’s upscale Address brand in Fujairah.

Down the line, there is the launch of another Address, the one in Istanbul, for which it working closely with the Emaar Square Mall in the Turkish city. “We've got the mall opened and then - obviously - the hotel component comes after that,” said Mark Kirby, Head of Hospitality at Emaar Hospitality Group. “We always work in tandem with a number of our other propositions.”

Emaar Hospitality's Mark Kirby has his say on where the company is headed next. Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Second quarter surge

After the recent Eid holiday boost, Dubai and UAE hotels are hoping that the numbers will hold up with the Expo entering its home stretch.

Emaar Hospitality - which operates the Vida, Rove and Address brands – “surpassed” all of its targets during the Ramadan-Eid period. “The local market will continue to do very well… the fact that we work collaboratively with places like Dubai Mall, Dubai Fountains, and Burj Khalifa helps us give a really value added offering,” said Kirby. “Ramadan this year was incredible for all of our hotels - we just finished the weekend and we were sitting at very solid occupancies.”

Private-public deals

At a wider level, the need of the hour is to keep partnerships going, especially those involving the governments. “Collaboration is critical between the private sector and the government sector, and most governments have supported the private sector tremendously with stimulus plans,” said Haitham Mattar, Managing Director of India, Middle East & Africa, IHG Hotels & Resorts.

The executive said that while 70 per cent of the company’s Middle East and Africa hotels closed during the pandemic, only 5 per cent went into permanent closures. “We've had to take the same difficult decisions as every hotel operator has in reducing staff members (and) reducing salaries,” added Mattar during the Arabian Travel Market. “Yet you see this spike in demand during holidays or during weekends.”

How are rates doing?

Occupancy levels are already at or past the 60 per cent, and should go further up between May 16-19, which coincides with ATM 2021’s schedule. The average daily rate (ADR) is a little over Dh576, according to the hospitality consultancy STR and a marked improvement on rates for most of 2020.

“ATM will create additional hotel demand that will lift Dubai past its realized levels of the past few months,” said Philip Wooller, Area Director for Middle East & Africa, STR. “Eid has always been a period of strong hotel performance, and many hotels this year offer ‘added value’ options to entice guests to upgrade rooms. This would of course yield higher than anticipated revenues for properties.”