Retailers lure customers with special Ramadan offers. Some retailers claim that spending during Ramadan represents 12 per cent to 20 per cent of their annual sales. Image Credit: Megan Hirons Mahon/Gulf News

Dubai: One would think that the arrival of Ramadan at the height of summer would raise anxiety levels in the UAE hotel industry, but all indications are to the contrary.

While Ramadan has indeed come in the middle of the hottest spell of the year, UAE hotels expect it to be business as usual for them, if not better.

Most hoteliers say their forward bookings indicate occupancy levels could go up to as high as 80 per cent in August.

"We are expecting to achieve an average of 70 per cent occupancy throughout the month. It is very similar to last year's Ramadan period when we achieved slightly above 70 per cent," said Ramzy Faris, director of sales and marketing at Sheraton Jumeirah Beach Hotel.

Ramada Hotel and Suites Ajman, meanwhile, forecasts occupancies to rest at 80 per cent in August, "which is 20 per cent more than last year", points out Iftikhar Hamdani, the hotel's executive assistant manager.

"Almost 60 per cent of this share is to come from corporate clients," he said.

Similarly, Dubai's Arabian Courtyard Hotel and Spa expects occupancies between 75 and 80 per cent during Ramadan, compared to 70 per cent it achieved last year.

"This year the first half of Ramadan is still likely to fetch a sizable business from European and Australian market stopovers as the holiday season is still effective," said Habib Khan, the hotel's General Manager.

Big hotel chains like Hilton and Moevenpick also see robust business ahead of Ramadan compared to last year.

"We are expecting our hotels to do well in August and demand is high compared to previous years, despite Ramadan coinciding with summer," said Essam Abouda, Hilton Worldwide's vice-president for operations for the Arabian Peninsula and Indian Ocean regions.

Echoing similar thoughts is Joydeep Ghosh, director of sales and marketing at Moevenpick Hotel Deira.

He said: "Even though Ramadan is generally a low season for all hotels in terms of occupancy, we are very positive about the two weeks in the middle of Ramadan as we can see reservations picking up for this time," adding that while the hotel would receive a number of business travellers during the month, "but not a very significant number compared to other months of the year".

It's not just the holiday season that is spelling good news for the emirate's hotels this Ramadan.

Feeder markets

In some ways, the political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa region has made the UAE an attractive alternative to a lot of other destinations summers travellers would traditionally go to within the region, including Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, to name a few.

As Sheraton's Faris points out: "We are expecting that the regional travel trends will continue to a certain degree during the holy month. Indications from the GCC market show a healthy demand for family travel which is incongruous with traditional trends."

He added that the hotel has also launched attractive promotions targeting its key feeder markets in Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Hilton's Abouda agrees. "Our guests during this time will primarily be people visiting family and friends from across the GCC and Saudi Arabia."

Moevenpick, too, seems to be witnessing a similar trend.

"Overall, we are expecting to get our share of the incoming travelling market from other GCC countries, Iran, China and so on," said Ghosh.

And inter-cities domestic movements, partly GCC business travellers, would form a bulk of hotels guests for Arabian Courtyard Hotel and Spa, other than the stopover business travellers from Europe and Australian markets, according to Khan.

"That is keeping in mind that it would still be European holiday period during the first half of August," he said, adding that the hotel would be more focused on "domestic and regional leisure business" as well as "Umrah stopover business".


And then there are others who are offering value added packages and promotions designed specifically for the Ramadan period in order to make the most of the business.

Samaya Hotel Deira expects to achieve 60-70 per cent occupancy levels during the month of Ramadan.

"This is far better than what we had last year," says Fouad Bizri, the hotel's general manager. But the hotel has nevertheless designed guest services specifically for Ramadan. "The hotel promotion lets guests check in any time of the day as a part of our special Ramadan promotion.

So they check in at any time and stay for 24 hours at the same rate," said Bizri. He added that special rates would also be offered for single and double room accommodations that would include iftar buffet and Suhour, targeting most of the guests from countries such as Iran, CIS and China.