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Dubai hotels occupancy levels are pushing towards the 90 per cent mark this week and the next. Rates are heading higher too. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: Hotels in Dubai are having their best occupancy levels and room rates to match as a combination of World Government Summit, next week’s Gulfood trade show and Valentine Day’s promotions pull in guests.

This week and the next would thus be the best for the hotel sector since December, which apart from the year-end festivities also had the hosting of the COP28 conference delegates.

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Right now, hotel rates are seeing a 25-30 per cent price surge compared to January 2023 levels, while occupancy levels are averaging 80-85 per cent. (It had hit 100 per cent during December.)

Palm Jumeirah's sought-after beach-side resorts are capitalizing on the staycation trend, with room rates shooting up from Dh1,595 to Dh2,000 for a one-day stay on February 14 and 15. A week ago, the average rates there ranged from Dh980 to Dh1,355.

Guests should brace for even higher rates during the weekend of February 19-20, soaring from Dh1,861 to Dh2,205.

This heightened demand cannot be solely attributed to Valentine's Day, as it extends beyond the traditional spike associated with this romantic occasion.

- Stefanie Trombetta of Fairmont Hotel

According to Stefanie Trombetta, Cluster Director of Revenue at Fairmont Hotels, “Throughout February, both weekdays and weekends have witnessed a notable surge in demand, surpassing typical trends observed during this period.”

“This heightened demand cannot be solely attributed to Valentine's Day, as it extends beyond the traditional spike associated with this romantic occasion. However, it certainly is a factor as to why bookings increase, particularly during the week and weekend of Valentine's Day.”

Stefanie also said the hotel group anticipates a surge in last-minute bookings across all its F&B outlets, particularly for ‘beach dinner experiences’.

There has been a notable surge in occupancy levels throughout Dubai.

- Andrea Strim of Grand Millennium

This year, Valentine's Day aligns with a week marked by significant high visibility events in the city, coinciding with the celebration of the Lunar New Year. “There has been a notable surge in occupancy levels throughout Dubai,” said Andrea Strim, General Manager of Grand Millennium Business Bay.

Shifting focus to couples too

Another hotelier said, “A mid-week surge in rates, though unusual, is not entirely uncommon. The surge in prices usually happens when Dubai is hosting mega-events. This week, many families and couples looking to celebrate Valentine’s Day have moved their plans to the weekend, causing a slight uptick in rates on February 19-23.”

Dubai is now heavily pushing tourism offers for couples over families. “We launched the ‘Kids Go Free’ program (during the) summer of 2023, and it helped us get more business," Issam Kazim, CEO of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), had said during the Skift Conference last year.

"What we heard is that the couple's stuff has been left out. So let's not focus on ‘kids go free’, but also put an offer out there for couples. That's something we're really pushing.”

“We're working with partners to ensure that we get more and more destination weddings happening in Dubai.”

Exceptional February numbers

UAE hotels have enjoyed an exceptional streak since November 2023 amid peak tourist arrivals and mega-events. Occupancy levels hit an outstanding 100 per cent in December last. UAE-headquartered Global Hotel Alliance (GHA) – an alliance of 40 independent hotel brands - said the total room revenue of the alliance’s loyalty program, shared by all brands and their collective 800 hotels, reached $2.3 billion, surpassing 2022 by more than $1 billion.

The repeat stay revenue surpassed the billion-dollar mark for the first time, increasing 60 per cent year-on-year to $1.4 billion, while hotel cross-brand revenue jumped 71 per cent to $289 million.

They are drawn not just for Valentine's but also for Dubai's packed calendar of mega-events, conferences, and exhibitions.

- Alfio Bernardini of Grand Plaza Movenpick - Media City

The upward swing is expected to continue. Alfio Bernardini, General Manager, Grand Plaza Movenpick Media City, Dubai, said, “Looking at the second half of February, we're experiencing a notable uptick in demand, blending leisure visitors with our mainstay of business travellers, highlighting the month’s robust performance.”

Forward bookings are strong, buoyed by high demand around Gulfood and in the lead-up to Ramadan at the end of February and early March, explained Bernadini.

According to Strim, “February has proven exceptionally promising for the hospitality sector regarding bookings and business outlook. This will be another remarkable year for Dubai as a destination.”

Source markets

The hotel's guest mix includes a steady blend of the local market and international travellers, said the hoteliers.

“They are drawn not just for Valentine's but also for Dubai's packed calendar of mega-events, conferences, and exhibitions,” said Bernadini. “The remainder of February, Valentine's Day included, are seeing rates on the higher side, influenced by concurrent citywide events.”

Regarding source markets, hoteliers said guests are arriving in Dubai from all over.

Strim said, “We witnessed a notable presence of visitors from Asia, the GCC countries, the UK, Italy, and Europe in general, coming to Dubai for large events, conferences, or key exhibitions.”

Stefanie said the CIS market continues to demonstrate resilience, maintaining its strength alongside notable performances from the UK and German markets.

“We have also observed a significant increase in local staycations, indicating a robust performance in domestic tourism,” she added.