CÉ LA Vi Dubai, Ramadan
CÉ LA Vi Dubai at the Address Sky View Hotel Image Credit: Supplied

On one level, the last two years have reinforced the spiritual and self-reflective discipline that is essential to the spirit of Ramadan. But the lifting of most health and safety restrictions this year presents the opportunity to relish activities we once took for granted.

We can gather with family and friends again. Like last year, the faithful can attend communal tarawih prayers at their favourite mosque, where Qurans are now available for use. While social distancing measures remain in place, indoor capacity restrictions have been eased, and face masks are now optional outdoors.

Businesses are preparing accordingly. Iftar and suhoor promotions are already filling up our social media feeds, alongside entertainment deals and interiors advertisements.

Following the previous few year’s restrictions, we are seeing a very positive trend in forward bookings.

- Glenn Nobbs, General Manager, Millenium Place Barsha Heights

“Don’t expect 2022 Ramadan to be a Ramadan as we have known them – this one will be busy,” says Glenn Nobbs, General Manager at the Millenium Place Barsha Heights hotel. Nobbs expects to see business and consumer gatherings around iftar and suhoor once again. “For F&B, there is a super eagerness to participate in iftar this year. Following the previous few year’s restrictions, we are seeing a very positive trend in forward bookings,” he says.

Customers are interested in more quality iftar and suhoor options this year.

- David Lescarret, General Manager, CÉ LA VI Dubai

David Lescarret, General Manager at CÉ LA VI Dubai, the rooftop restaurant at the Address Sky View Hotel, is also seeing consumer interest for traditional Ramadan meals. “We anticipate people will most likely gather during Ramadan, now that the pandemic is fading away,” he says. “Customers are interested in more quality iftar and suhoor options this year and given the good weather in April, we believe they will be more looking for outdoor seating as opposed to Ramadan tents like the last few years.”

Like last year, restaurants in Dubai hotels and shopping malls will remain open during fasting hours this year, according to Visit Dubai.

An opportunity for travel

Ramadan represents an opportunity to travel and Dubai hoteliers are already seeing an uptick in interest from tourists. With countries opening again for international travel and most removing quarantine and PCR requirements, they anticipate that tourists will return to the UAE for the Holy Month.

Nobbs says forward bookings indicate high levels of occupancy, driven primarily by the leisure market and supported by government marketing. “We can more or less say the pandemic is over,” he says.

Room revenue is expected surpass previous Ramadan levels by as much as 20 per cent on previous years.

- Lukas Tremmel, Hotel Manager, Media One Hotel

Across the street at Media One Hotel, anticipations are high for a strong season. “Room revenue is expected surpass previous Ramadan levels by as much as 20 per cent on previous years. A similar trend is anticipated in our F&B revenues too due to the more favourable weather conditions,” says Lukas Tremmel, Hotel Manager, Media One Hotel.

“In more recent years, Ramadan has fallen over the off-peak summer months when business levels are considered to be below the annual monthly average in Dubai. As Ramadan now falls in April, this is traditionally a busy month from a leisure perspective, as the weather is not too hot and with visiting friends and family coming over during the spring holidays,” he adds. “We are hopeful the legacy left by Expo 2020 will continue to solicit business opportunities to the city and will enable hotels to drive average daily rates better than previous Ramadan months in comparison.”

As the post-pandemic world started to shape up and Ramadan experiences and celebrations shifted from digital-only to more hybrid experiences.

- Maha Nizam, Product Marketing Manager, Google

Leisure travel will remain strong but corporate business is likely to drop over the month, he says – although travellers are waiting to book at the last minute in line with pandemic patterns.

Changing consumer behaviours

But while some aspects of Ramadan hark back to pre-Covid times, other behaviours have been permanently altered by the pandemic. “As the post-pandemic world started to shape up and Ramadan experiences and celebrations shifted from digital-only to more hybrid experiences, we have seen that some of the consumer behaviors haven’t changed yet,” says Maha Nizam, Product Marketing Manager at Google MENA.

The digital business revealed several trends that will see us continue to look online first in many areas of our lives. “Communities are being built and shaped online. Even though people were able to meet face-to-face in some countries across the region last year, audiences and creators continued to connect online with each other,” she says.

Another trend is the rise of that people are looking for feel-good, pick-me-up content, even over the Holy Month. “Whether it is funny content created by their favourite creators, or heartwarming content driven by brands such as Emirates and Dubai artists’ campaign.”

And although supermarkets are heaving with Ramadan specials, a significant proportion of us continue to shop online.

“From a shopping perspective, we saw that 57 per cent of consumers in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt were more price-oriented over a six-month period leading up to Ramadan than they were the year before, and we expect this to continue this year,” Nizam says, citing Google data.

Thankfully, one activity remains unaltered – even if the medium has changed. Google search data shows that audiences turned to digital to find ways of experiencing spirituality, giving, and kindness, Nizam says. “We saw a 100 per cent increase in YouTube search interest for ‘donations’ and ‘charitable giving’ in Saudi Arabia during the four weeks of Ramadan in 2021 versus all other months of the year. The core values of Ramadan remain constant during the Holy Month.”