While corporate hotels across the UAE saw average occupancies drop by around 30 per cent during the Ramadan period, most leisure hotels also experienced slight occupancy drops, according to hoteliers and market experts, with Ramadan falling in the midst of summer this year.
“The market for a lot of the corporate hotels has dropped and that’s pretty normal because people generally gravitate to their residence and a lot of food and beverage outlets are closed. Over the Ramadan period I would probably say that it drops by 20 to 30 per cent,” says Peter Goddard, Managing Director of TRI Hospitality Consulting. He added that he is, however, optimistic about the time after the Eid holidays. “We think it’s going to be very strong,” he said.
Kempinski, meanwhile, saw booking pace for the month of Ramadan at “11 per cent”, according to Avsar Koc, Regional Sales Director for Kempinski - Middle East & Africa. “That’s better than the previous year on average across our properties in UAE,” he pointed out.
The hotel’s properties across the UAE are “performing as expected”, says Koc, “and in some cases better than we have projected”. He was, however, quick to admit that Ramadan, once again overlapping with hot summer months, has affected the hotel’s business travel segment.  “Holidaymakers continue to choose UAE as their preferred destination as we have seen a steady amount of leisure business,” he said.
Rotana Hotels registered a 10 per cent drop in occupancies this Ramadan period, according to Adrian Deegan, Area Director of Sales, Rotana. “From May 15 until the beginning of Ramadan, the hotels were running at a pretty good occupancy - they were in the 70s on average. Rates have dropped about 10 per cent since the start of Ramadan. But we were expecting that was not a surprise,” he said, adding that within 10 days [from Eid] the hotels would be “back into the high season again”.
Hilton, meanwhile, saw a “healthy pick-up across the region” during this year’s Ramadan, versus last year, says Haitham Mattar, Hilton’s VP Sales - Middle East, Africa, East Europe & Russia. “This is particularly in Dubai  and Ras Al Khaimah with guests coming mainly from US, Germany and UK,” he said.
Asked if the increase was owing to traffic getting directed to UAE due to regional issues in other Gulf countries, Mattar told Gulf News: “The growth in performance is not directly related to conflict areas, as we are experiencing some recovery in our Egypt resorts and some gradual uplift in Cairo, particularly from GCC countries into Cairo.”
Kempinski, on the other hand, saw regional issues impacting occupancies in some way. “Regional issues might have a slight impact on our occupancies during the month of Ramadan, but the UAE remains a strong destination year-round,” as Koc pointed out, adding that Kempinski’s two luxury properties in Egypt saw healthy business pick up in the first six months of this year.
At the Millennium Hotel Abu Dhabi, the occupancies are not necessarily experiencing strong performance, says Ruprecht Schmitz, the hotel’s General Manager. “The tourists influx is suppressed,” he said, adding that the pick up starts after Eid.
And then there are some hotels that found occupancy drop to be similar to last year’s Ramadan period. Grand Millennium Al Wadha’s manager, Marwan Mseikeh, said that the hotel’s drop in occupancy rates is in the same range as last year’s. “It’s always between 20 to 25 per cent. This year it has been 25 to 28 per cent,” he pointed out.
Interestingly, some hotels also experienced lower numbers due to Ramadan coinciding with the London Olympics this year. As Habib Khan, General Manager of Arabian Courtyard Hotel & Spa, says: “The occupancy this year was a bit less as compared to last year. Due to the Olympics, our main feeder market - UK, had less production.”
In contrast, Danat Hotels & Resorts managed Tilal Liwa Hotel, has seen over 80 per cent occupancy during the Ramadan period, as claims Ayman Ashor, the hotel’s General Manager. “It’s mainly from the corporate business (long and short term) and groups business,” he said.
So while most hotels have experienced no significant boost in occupancies during Ramadan, they are all pinning their hopes on Eid to make up for the lost business.