Stock Five Hotels, Dubai 1
Dubai received 1.78 million visitors in March 2022. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: UAE's hotel operators are reaping the benefits of the liberal visa regime, which has seen the issue of short-term visas for those working remotely or on a freelance basis.

There’s now even a job exploration visa, which allows professionals to seek opportunities here. The easing of entry-and-stay rules is encouraging many tourists to come and reside in Dubai and UAE for longer periods. This means hotels have a certain number of guests staying on longer at any point of time in a year.

Rohit Vig, Vice-President Development, StayWell Holdings, which operates the Park Regis Boutique Hotel Jumeirah, said around 20-25 per cent of the occupancy during a year comes from expats visiting the city for work purposes – either for projects or to look for a job.

“With the remote work visa which enables employees from all over the world to live and work for one year in addition to a multiple-entry tourist visa for all nationalities, we are expecting a rise in the long-stay occupancy,” said Vig.

High performing Q1-22

After a blockbuster first quarter where Dubai came out as No. 1 in occupancy, hotels now have their eyes on the upcoming Eid Al Adha holiday in July. StayWell properties are expected to see an 80-90 per cent occupancy rate during the long weekend, said Vig.

StayWell’s hotels, which witnessed a 30 per cent increase in first quarter occupancy rates compared to the year ago, crossed the pre-pandemic benchmark with ease during the nine-day Eid Al Fitr break.

According to STR, a consultancy, Abu Dhabi and Dubai hotel industries recorded occupancy and average daily rate (ADR) that exceeded the 2019 levels. On May 2, Dubai’s occupancy came in at around 75 per cent, almost 20 per cent higher than on June 4, 2019, that year's Eid

Emaar Hospitality, which operates hotel brands such as Vida and Address, had an ‘exceptional’ first quarter coming off the back of Expo 2020, said Mark Kirby, Head of Hospitality.

Occupancy rates at the company’s properties stood at more than 75 per cent during the period, said Kirby, adding that numbers got a boost from Emaar Hospitality’s partnership with the six-month event.

That was not the only thing helping Emaar. International travelers began returning in full swing in the second-half of 2021.

“We saw from the end of 2021 a normalization in terms of our numbers coming from mainland Europe,” said Kirby. “We have started to see some pre-pandemic numbers coming back into the city”

Hotel rates get that lift

Guests can avoid last minute spikes in rates by booking way in advance. This can help save Dh500-Dh1,000 on a room, especially with Eid Al Adha right around the corner.

For example, a room at Dubai’s iconic Burj Al Arab costs around Dh5,200 this Friday – but the same room is seen costing only Dh3,200 on July 10, which is expected to be the second day of the Eid break.

Similarly, the Four Seasons on Jumeirah Beach is going for Dh1,650 during Eid, compared to around Dh2,650 this weekend. Rooms rates at Shangri-La Dubai will nearly halve to Dh480 in July from current rates.

Rates will rise once the Eid holidays are formally announced. In the case of Oaks Ibn Battuta Gate, the rate is seen rising to Dh332 on July 10, compared to around Dh290 currently.

Staycation demand is there
The staycation mania that took hold of UAE residents due to the unavailability of flights might be here to stay.

During the May holidays, more than a fifth of the hotel chain’s sales came from within the UAE. "It still shows that people still want to stay in hotels for staycations and I think it is here to stay, said" Kirby.

Covid-related travel restrictions are still a ground reality in parts of China and Asia. This means residents have fewer places to visit.

“During the summer months, almost every hotel in the city offers some great discounts and this helps pique the interest of both travellers as well as residents," said Vig.