Asia Cup matches and the demand this have been generating for hotels in Dubai and Sharjah offer the right settings for the hospitality industry to cash in during the FIFA World Cup starting November in Doha. Image Credit: Dubai Police/Twitter

Dubai: For Dubai hotels awaiting a full-scale bounce from the FIFA World Cup starting November, the ongoing Asia Cup cricket matches are providing a taster of what’s to come.

The hospitality-focussed consultancy STR confirms a significant uplift in occupancy and average daily rate (ADR) for the previous and current weeks at hotels in Dubai, and particularly so for those properties in Deira and Bur Dubai.

“Sharjah hotels also look to be a big beneficiary as many of the matches are played in the emirate,” said Mohamed El Hadi, Account Manager, Middle East and Africa at STR. “Currently, Sharjah has seen an increase of 16 per cent growth in occupancy and 12 per cent on ADR in the last two weeks over the same time last year.”

While all of the occupancy gains may not be on account of cricket fans visiting the UAE, the STR official said similar trends were recorded last year, in September and October, when AE hosted IPL matches as well as the T20 cricket World Cup.

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A ‘5-10%’ gain

Based on travel industry feedback, hotel rates are up by 5-10 per cent during the Asia Cup phase. Sources say the impact on hotels could have been higher if the tournament had started closer to October. (That would have been quite difficult, though, with the cricket world preparing for another T20 World Cup, this time in Australia, from later next month.)

Stock Dubai skyline
Here's what is being served up as demand appetizers for UAE hotels - Asia Cup, the events and conferences planned in the coming weeks, Diwali arrivals, and then the serious action starting November when the FIFA matches kick off. Image Credit: WAM

Diwali and FIFA

Hotel operators needn’t be disappointed about that, because they can tap other demand generators during October. "Hotels are going to be packed, especially by end October because there will be (the Indian festival of) Diwali, when a 40 per cent plus hike can be expected (in room rates),” said M. P. Rajeev, Director at Travel Tag Tourism.

This would then flow into the much-anticipated boost UAE hotels are forecasting as FIFA matches get underway in Doha from mid-November. "We see hotels, although certainly not all, becoming bullish on (room) pricing with the expected growth in demand from fans using the UAE as a base to travel to Qatar,” said Martin Jones, Director for Global Supply & Partnerships at TBO.COM. “But it's still early to understand the true impact."

The impression among industry sources is that between hotel rooms, serviced apartments, and short-stay units, UAE will have enough capacity to take care of the Doha-bound traffic. Indicative rates suggest 40-60 per cent over what room rates are currently, and then even higher for the knockout phase.

Group bookings

Monther Darwish, Managing Director of Palazzo Versace Dubai and founder of Palazzo Hospitality, says the hotel has been receiving group booking requests for stays from November. "We are projecting a full house throughout the World Cup, with an ADR uplift of 30-40 per cent compared to Q1 this year,” Darwish said. “I firmly believe this year we can fully leverage our unique selling point, which is proximity to the airport, where a minimum of 60 flights will operate daily from DXB to Doha.

“We have finalised stay packages with two major airlines to streamline the booking processes for the guests."

Other hotels in the UAE too are following the same script as they ready for some serious action starting mid-November.

Demand lift from Asia Cup could have been higher
"The Asia Cup matches created a lot of anticipation in the UAE hospitality market. However, as the dates coincided with back-to-school in many key feeder markets for the UAE, the expected demand from cricket fans has been less impactful," said Martin Jones, Director for Global Supply & Partnerships at TBO.COM.