Tourists at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: File photo

Dubai: The hospitality industry in Abu Dhabi kicked off 2019 with a bang, with hotels reporting the busiest first month of the year in over a decade.

Hotels in the UAE capital were 78 per cent booked during the first month of the year, the highest January occupancy rate since 2008, according to STR analysts on Tuesday.

With the huge demand, the revenue per available room (RevPAR) and average daily rate jumped by 7.5 per cent and 5.4 per cent, respectively.

The robust performance was achieved despite non-stop construction of new hotels in the emirate, which saw room supply growing by 11.2 per cent, and this is thanks largely to the hosting of Asia’s football championship from January 5 to February 1 this year.

“Asia Cup helps Abu Dhabi post highest January occupancy since 2008,” STR said.

In Dubai, hotels last month were not as busy as in the same period last year, with occupancy rates falling five per cent to 82 per cent, while average daily rates and revenue per available room dropping by 10.9 per cent and 15.3 per cent, respectively.

“Occupancy and rate declines are to be expected for the market with a significant amount of new inventory in the pipeline ahead of Expo 2020,” said STR.

As of January, 170 projects were under construction and these are expected to deliver 48,759 rooms into the market, thereby increasing the availability of hotel accommodations.

Analysts, however, pointed out that the performance of hotels in the emirate was “solid” in the beginning of the month, thanks to New Year’s celebrations, as well as the hosting of Arabplast international trade exhibition.

“At the same time, demand (room nights sold) grew for the fourth consecutive month, and overall performance was solid during the first five days of the month,” said STR.

Abu Dhabi continues to see an increase in visitor numbers, with the majority coming from India, China and the United Kingdom. From January to November 2018, the number of hotel guests jumped 4.5 per cent to 4.6 million, according to data compiled by the Department of Culture and Tourism.

Most hotel guests stayed in the UAE capital for an average of 2.5 days during the same period, up by 0.3 per cent compared to the previous year.

A total of 375,000 Indian nationals booked hotels in Abu Dhabi from January to November. Chinese guests came second at 366,000, followed by British nationals at 255,000 and Americans and Filipinos at 179,000 and 168,000, respectively.