Stock Dubai Skyline
Welcome to Dubai - the anticipated year-end surge is going according to plan. For confirmation, try for a booking at the trending places in the city from December 20 onwards. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Try making a booking at a five-star hotel in Dubai – it doesn’t matter whether it’s in the business district or by the beachside. Chances are you will not get one – or else be willing to spend more than what you were budgeting for.

The same can be said for any sort of rest and recreation activity planned in Dubai for the final fortnight of 2021. In fact, until January end, all tourism-related activities in the city are booked solid, according to industry sources. “Most flights, restaurants and hotels are already full,” said Avinash Adnani, Managing Partner at Pluto Travels.

“Ground transportation is difficult to get and so are short cruises; and staycations are also busy. There are a lot of movements planned all the way up to end January, and it's mainly from non-Asian markets like Kuwait, Europe, Russia, and so on.”

Five-star room rates are cruising well into the Dh3,000 plus range, and hotels expect another round of firming up in the next few days.

New experiences

Ain Dubai fireworks
There is always a new experience in Dubai - and Ain Dubai is as new as it gets, having opened its 48 cabins on October 21. Image Credit: Evangeline Jose/Gulf News

The city has been busy adding new experiences for its residents and visitors like, not least the Ain Dubai wheel that towers over that part of the city. For those wanting to be always connected, Ain Dubai’s 48 cabins come with 5G connectivity, no less.

“The city keeps creating new destinations and each of them adds to the overall Dubai feel,” said a hotelier.

It is fitting then the latest tourism focussed campaign Dubai launched connects all of the city’s strengths. The #DubaiDestinations promotion, launched on Monday (December 14), aims to create more narratives about what it means to visit/stay in Dubai. It will be narratives framed and spread by residents and the wider community.

“Thanks to the Christmas festivities and New Year`s Eve celebrations, we see spikes in room rates during those phases,” said Praveen Shetty, Chairman of the Fortune Group, which operates six four-star properties in the city. “Dubai has always perceived as one hot destination to bring in the New Year`s.

“DSF 2021 is starting earlier this year, so we do anticipate the things to rebound by the last week of December.”

Hotel hirings
Hotels in the UAE and wider region are back in hiring mode, according to a top official at

"This has been driven by both existing operators expanding their teams to meet increased occupancy demands, and by new hotel openings that have generated a need for great talent as quickly as possible," said Jeremy Vercoe, Global Sales Manager, "We expect this trend to continue throughout 2022 as significant events put the spotlight on the region, which is going to make the competition for talent even fiercer for all concerned."

It is all good for holiday homes

With five-star hotel occupancy moving into the 80 per cent plus mark, some of that demand rush is rubbing off on holiday homes too. “At the luxury end of the vacation rental market, we are seeing rates being pushed up by North American, European and Russian travellers,” said Vinayak Mahtani, founder of bnbme, a holiday-home operator. “Even the volumes coming from Indian visitors is on average higher even though the flights from India are turning more expensive.

“Overall, it’s a great mix for Dubai where the guest is focused on seeking experiences and wanting to enjoy Dubai rather than chase discounts.”

Yousuf Fakhruddin, CEO of Fakhruddin Properties, attests to that. "Demand for short-term rentals and hotels apartments has stepped up as it makes it feasible for travellers who want a comfortable place without checking into a hotel. There has also been a significant increase in local expats opting for short-term rentals versus the traditional one-year lease format. They serve the key requirement of the end-user having a place to relax with no deposit, no commission, no hidden charges, no penalties and payments collected at the end of the month.”

Could have been higher

But there are market sources who believe that the Indian tourist influx could have been higher. “The Indian tourism and travel market is not moving at the speed we wanted,” said Adnani. “The primary reason is that a return ticket isn't going to cost less than $2,000.

“On top of that, the mandatory rapid PCR test policy at airports and the rise of the Omicron variant have created a sense of uncertainty for travel from India. We might have to wait until end January before the true traffic from India starts.”

Four-stars face some headwinds
After a demand surge in October and November, four-star hotels are seeing a slight dip.

"Prices in December so far when compared to November 2021 have unfortunately taken a turn southwards, by 10-15% in budget hotels," said Praveen Shetty of Fortune Group. "There were some cancellations, but we foresee a quick rebound. We just hope the impact of Omicron is not that severe and our feeder markets do not impose any strict travel restrictions."