It's packed - hotels across Dubai are enjoying unprecedented occupancy levels as MICE and sporting events kick into heavy action. Room rates too are soaring. (Pictured here is a moment at the Leva Hotel.) Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Looking for a hotel room this week? Chances are you won’t find one, because hotel occupancy rates in the city are running at 100 per cent as business activity and the opening of the mega trade show Gulfood draws heavy demand. Plus, there is a continuous flow of tourists making full use of the remaining days before the heat sets in.

Mid-week hotel rates at five-star hotels have soared to Dh5,750 and Dh45,000 for check-in on February 22 to checkout on February 24. According to online travel aggregator, 97 per cent of listed hotels in Dubai are unavailable for a stay on those dates. Room rates in Abu Dhabi hotels are averaging Dh1,463 to Dh5,508, benefiting from visitors headed for the defence exhibition IDEX.

In Dubai, three- and four-star properties as well as serviced apartments too are riding the wave of demand.

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Definitely, hotels are getting the double benefit from meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions (MICE) and sporting events, with the ongoing Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championships. And forward bookings are encouraging all the way to the start of Ramadan later next month.

Many hotels are recording occupancy figures from the same period in 2018, which too was a high-performing year.

All out of rooms

Thomas Kurian, Hotel Manager at Leva Hotel Dubai, said, “We don’t have any rooms available. We are recording 100 per cent occupancy until February 23. I think most hotels on Sheikh Zayed Road are booked out.

“Many of our guests are attending Gulfood. Overall, February occupancy levels have been very healthy for us. Exhibition-driven businesses and MICE events have seen excellent levels.”

Gulfood is 30 per cent larger than the previous year, with more than 5,000 confirmed exhibitors, including 1,500 first-time exhibitors

Some hoteliers have said Dubai’s current occupancy and room rates are unusual. Praveen Shetty, Chairman and Managing Director of the Fortune Group of Hotels, said, “In every locality across Dubai, hotel occupancy rates are at a staggering 95-100 per cent.”

Shetty said business travellers would pay any amount for a hotel room in Dubai. “We have noticed that during the last week, corporate guests arrived in the country with families. On February 20, the day Gulfood began, families returned home while those attending Gulfood stayed back. This trend kept prices high even after the weekend.”

Gulfood is 30 per cent larger than the previous year, with more than 5,000 confirmed exhibitors, including 1,500 first-time exhibitors.

Rates soar

Hotel room rate data from the consultancy STR show that December 2022 saw 76.6 per cent occupancy with Dh892.84 as the average daily rate for a hotel room in Dubai. While weekend and special occasion room rates remained the highest during the New Year’s Eve weekend, prices averaged Dh850 to Dh2,300 for a two-night stay in most three- and four-star properties through January. This is for a double occupancy standard room.

However, prices for February 20 to 22 for a single occupancy room in hotels close to the Dubai World Trade Centre start at Dh5,564. A basic double occupancy room at one leading five-star is at Dh6,000, and another in the DIFC precinct at Dh8,556. Beachside resorts are charging Dh10,351 for a double room.

Awaiting the Chinese boom

Sylvia Matei, the Cluster Hotel Manager of Holiday Inn Dubai and Staybridge Suites Dubai Al-Maktoum Airport, said, “We are experiencing a surge in demand from leisure, corporate, and cabin crew customers. The cabin crew guests are not just from commercial airlines, but we also have a lot of private jet crews staying with us.

“Currently, occupancy levels are in the late 90 per cent, and forward bookings in March look very healthy.”

There is yet another spike that’s awaited - from Chinese tourists. “Once Chinese tourists return to UAE (in force), the numbers will soar further,” said Shetty.