Hotels in Dubai are experiencing a substantial growth in reservations and bookings as the city prepares for the opening of GITEX TECHNOLOGY WEEK, according to top executives from both the hotel and exhibitions sectors. They say that hotel occupancy ratesincrease significantly during exhibitions and conferences being held annually in Dubai. More than 136, 000 visitors attended GITEX TECHNOLOGY WEEK last year, leading to strong competition amongst hotels to attract customers. The largest global technology event organised and hosted by the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), regularly boosts revenues at all hotel facilities including rooms, restaurants, conference halls, ballrooms and spas.
Officials explain that the availability and wide range of international hotels in Dubai has been one of the main reasons that global event organisers choose the Emirate to stage their events, which has resulted in the city gaining a regional and international reputation for hosting an assortment of trade fairs and conventions.
Executives confirm that most hotels in Dubai(and especially those located near DWTC and along Sheikh Zayed Road), operate at full capacity during major trade fairs and international conferences, with most of these hotels witnessing occupancy levels that exceed 95 per cent, with some hitting 100 per cent.
Meanwhile, statistics released by the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) reaffirm that the number of hotel occupancies in the Emirate during the first quarter this year reached 2.38 million in comparison to 2.09 million in the first three months of last year. This resulted in a 13.6 per cent increase from 2010,and a 35.4 per cent increase inthe holiday period during the equivalent first quarters. During the first quarter of 2011, hotels experienced a revenue boost of AED4.3 billion in comparison to the AED3.7 billion in the same period last year.Hotel establishments reached 573 in 2010, compared with 540 in 2009, raising the total number of rooms and hotel apartments to 71,046. These include 18,382 rooms in five-star hotels, 13,342 in four-star hotels, 8,776 in three-star hotels, with some 5,154 rooms in two-star hotels and 4,888 in one-star hotels, in addition to 19,840 hotel apartments.
NaeemDarkazzally, Acting Vice President for Sales at Rotana Hotels, said: “Occupancy at Rotana’s five hotels on Sheikh Zayed Road ranges between 95 per cent and 100 per cent when global activities and international conferences take place. Whilst other hotels such as AmwajRotana (that is located further away from DWTC) only increases by around 10-15 per cent.” He pointed out that trade and conference visitors constitute at least 40-50 per cent of the total guests that stay during the periods when international exhibitions and global conferences are held. Total number of rooms at the RotanaHotel Group’s current 13 hotels and hotel apartments (of all star ratings) will surge to a total of 3,942 rooms when two new hotels in Al-Ghurair City will open in the coming months, bringing 621 new rooms to the Group.
The exhibitions industry greatly contributes to further revitalisation of hotel activities, where hotel occupancy rates in general – especially those lying on both sides of Sheikh Zayed Road and in areas nearby to DWTC – exceeds 90 per cent during the staging of the largest and most reputable trade fairs such as GITEX, Gulf Food and Arab Health, when most Rotana Hotel Group facilities operate in full capacity, says Darkazzally.
He explains that Rotana Hotels organises special offers during relatively quiet periods of the year, such as the summer season and during the month of Ramadan, but not during major events are held because of a lack of surplus rooms to market. He stresses that the set of major activities hosted by DWTC count among key factors considered in Rotana Hotel Group’s annual marketing and sales plan.
Darkazzally highly commended the quality of visitors attracted to major trade fairs, such as Arab Travel Market (ATM), whose latest edition was the best for the past 10 years, says Darkazzally. He.added that the event has risen to such a status that it compares in strength with the ITP fair in Berlin, Germany, which is considered the largest event in the world in the tourism sector. Similarly, Darkazzally compares ATM to the World Travel Market(WTM) in London in terms of luring the most elite and specialised kind of visitors, CEOs and the heads of travel and tourism companies who converge at the event from various tourist markets around the world, including countries which have had no representation in the past, such as Scandinavian countries, Japan and China.
The Acting Vice President for Sales at Rotana Hotels stresses that Dubai trade fairs constitute a highly important tributary for all the various hotel facilities, not only the hotel rooms, as they lead to increased bookings of ballrooms for events related to the fairs, in addition to higher real income achieved at the hotels’ various restaurants during these periods. He reaffirms that the exhibitions held in the UAE(Dubai in particular), have reached an advanced stage where they influence higher demand for hotel rooms in the emirate.
He confirms that exhibitions and conferences represents a continuous growth of the trade and conference sector and the status achieved by Dubai in this regard was a major factor for DTCM to establish the Dubai Convention Bureau, which is performing “real miracles”as it works in coordination with all government and private sectors to attract global conventions of importance to Dubai for the coming years.
Mohammed Taher, Sales and Marketing Regional Manager at Shangri-La Hotels, says: “Dubai hotels reap huge benefits from international events held annually in the Emirate, whether exhibitions, conferences or conventions. Occupancy at the Shangrila hotel in Dubai throughout exhibition periods reach 100 per cent annually. No doubt, the biggest beneficiary of the MICE industry is definitely hotels, as fair season counts among the most active periods for all hotel facilities, from rooms to restaurants and conference halls, with hotel income more than doublingin comparison to other periods with no such activities.”
Taher adds: “However, this does not mean that only hotels benefit from fairs and conferences.Exhibitions also benefit from the wide variety of hotels throughout the UAE, which are considered as one of the most critical factors for global event organisers to choose Dubai for their activities. Additionally, the mix of hotels at different levelsprovides organisers the opportunity to offer various types of exhibitions for various traders and businessmen. Infrastructure, including airports and telecommunications, also plays an important role in attracting global activities,with an infrastructure that ranks at the highest global level, Dubai arein a strong position in this regard also...”
The Shangri-La Hotels sales and marketing regional Manager confirms that“All through-out the busiest and largest exhibitions held in Dubai, such as the approximately 30 year long GITEX Technology Week, foreign exhibitors and visitors make up 80% of our total occupancies. Hotels which are further to DWTC but along the metro line also benefit indirectly throughout such busy events; this is due to the full occupancy which hotels (extended to Sheikh Zayed road) experience and leads visitors and tourists to reside in alternative hotels in the city. This serves a great benefit where the diversity of costs in hotels are being exposed to the visitors, along with the potential opportunity to experience the city metro”
Taher explains: “All Shangri-La Hotel facilities work in full capacity during GITEX,Arab Health, Gulfood and others; what’s more important is that this level is maintained throughout the duration of the exhibitions. As for fair participants, they often do not immediately check out from the hotel following the conclusion of the event; rather a high percentage of them stay on for several days afterwards. Some of them bring their families with them, while others come back later with their families in private trips for tourism purposes – we have verified this through tracking the hotel records and surveying guests who check in at the hotel more than once.”
He elaborates: “Flight agencies, tourism agencies and the city’s public transportation share a great deal of revenue all throughout the busy events. Dubai Metro is a prime example where today it can transport visitors from the Dubai International Airport to anywhere in the city including the event doors of the DWTC. The metro also witnessed 75 per cent of visitors who attended the Arabian Travel Market exhibition this year due to its high level of demand, and to its express and cost-effective means of transportation.”
He also pointed out that “all through-out the busy months of events and business exhibitions, hotels are only subjected to providing exclusive offers and feasibilities allowing customers to book conference rooms, business centres and halls easily. This enables hotels not to create or prepare advertisement campaigns.”
He finally adds that:”The status of Dubai has been reinforced in the exhibitions and conferences industry, thanks to its international levelof infrastructure, as the city is now hosting large conferences with delegates numbering as many as 20,000 people.” Taher points out that his hotel receives enquiries from Dubai Convention Bureau, DTCM and international event organisers to assess the possibility of accommodating delegates who will participate in future conventions which Dubai will host in years 2013, 2014 and 2015. “We have been working for some time with the organisers of Arab Health and Gulfood to build an understanding of what rooms we can offer during the next edition of both trade fairs. This helps us assess and prepare sales and marketing strategies which can best fit the busy season. We are also working to divide the rooms between our own guests and the exhibition guests, especially in light of an expansion of the areas for a number of major exhibitions and the expected increase in the number of their visitors and participants.”
Raki Phillips, Sales and Marketing Regional Manager at Fairmont Middle East, says: “Activities held specifically at DWTC are responsible for an important part of the size of our operations annually, and they represent a substantial percentage of both Fairmont’s income and other hotels located near DWTC, which lie along both sides of Sheikh Zayed Road.” Citing a projected increase of 10 per cent in occupancy at the hotel this year as compared to last year, he explains that the Fairmont Hotel benefits tremendously from fairs and conferences hosted by DWTC due to its proximity and accessibility to DWTC via a pedestrian overpassof a few-minutes’ walk with no need for transportation.
Phillips says that occupancy at the Fairmont Hotel hits 100 per cent during such exhibitions as Arab Health, GITEX and Gulfood, adding that exhibition and conference participants constitute 60 per cent of the hotel guests, and that they are responsible for an increase of 20-25 per cent in real income due to a hike in room rates during the period, as well as longer stays at the rooms and increased use of the hotel’s restaurants and other facilities. “We have designed Fairmont Gold on the 33rd floor with the concept of ‘a hotel within a hotel’ for extra comfort to businessmen and delegates, where we offer all their needs of rooms and 18 conference rooms in the first floor. The hotel is working to provide more business services and facilities to guests from this category, whereby we offer them transportation from the airport, as well as the option for early check-in and late check-out, in addition to good discounted rates upon early booking.”
Phillips agrees that the variety of hotels in Dubai (and indeed their difference ratings) has markedly contributed to the success of the exhibition and conference industry whichpresented the evident growth in the hotel sector. This growth of the hotel sector includes an increase in the number of hotel rooms and a surge in their revenues as a direct result of the increase in room occupancy to full capacity during major events. He asserts that this integration between the hotel and exhibition industries, and with other sectors such as shopping malls, tourism companies, restaurants and airlines, has contributed to the rise of Dubai among all cities in the region as a tourist and shopping destination. He adds that exhibitions and conferences have played an important role in achieving this status, due to the increasing number of business tourists and the high spending power it attracts.
Philips adds that due to the wide variety of guests over different time periods, the Fairmont looks to serve diverse types of food to suit the clientele. DWTC and DTCM provide the required information such as event calendars in order to help guide the hotel in the choices of cuisine served in their restaurants.
Helal Saeed Al-Marri, CEO of DWTC, says: “The business and hospitality sectorsplay different roles in contributing to the success of exhibitions and conferences. The hotel sector plays an important and vital role within the line-up for the success of a strong exhibition sector which has been going for more than 32 years, withDWTC commencing this activity in 1979. The diversity of hotels in Dubai ranging from luxurious to business hotels, have all made a big contribution towards the development and growth of the exhibition industry, and the growth in the number of its visitors and exhibitors. Likewise, the steady growth in the number of exhibition participants has led to further revival of the hotel industry and related industries such as construction, hotel equipment, interior design and others, and this influence extends to the tourism and shopping sector,” says Al-Marri.
Al-Marri says that the rise in hotel rooms to full occupancy during major events helps them to achieve their goals, which include contributing towards increasing the number of tourists into the UAE, increasing trade, tourism, shopping and airline activities, and introducing global business travellers to the great potential of Dubai during their participation in activities organised and hosted by DWTC. “That’s why I see that the exhibition and hotel industries are highly connected and interrelated in such a way that neither can do without the other. The integration of the two industries and their close relationship is driving us to achieve our vision in making Dubai the leading global destination for all international exhibitions, conferences and events.”
He also adds that: “Dubai has successfully become a regional and worldwide beacon for its solid infrastructure in catering and organizing thousands of global events for many years. This was achieved thanks to our local air-carriers, local roads and traffic authority, local police and all other governmental institutionwho all have played a vital role in establishing the city as the premier platform for global events and exhibitions.”