Dubai sits back to enjoy healthy tourism upsurge

Published May 1st, 2012 - 08:53 GMT
Dubai is expected to more attract 10 million hotel guests this year, up from 9.3 million last year
Dubai is expected to more attract 10 million hotel guests this year, up from 9.3 million last year

The number of hotel guests staying in Dubai increased by 9 per cent in the first quarter of the year, while hotel revenues surged by 24 per cent on the same quarter last year, official figures released yesterday showed.

The Arab Spring, marketing efforts, an increase in tourists from emerging economies, and airline capacity have all helped to boost Dubai's hotels, members of the industry said at the Arabian Travel Market, which started in Dubai yesterday.

"It's really encouraging," said Khalid A bin Sulayem, the director general of the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM). He said he expected Dubai to attract 10 million hotel guests this year, up from 9.3 million last year.

"I think Dubai for some people, they consider it maybe expensive, but it is really value for money." There was a need for more hotel rooms in Dubai to meet the demand and keep room rates competitive, Mr bin Sulayem said. The figures from the tourism department showed that Dubai's hotels and hotel apartments accommodated almost 2.6 million guests in the first quarter of the year, up 9 per cent from the same quarter last year.

Revenues were up 24 per cent to more than Dh5.38 billion (US$1.46bn), while guest nights increased 22 per cent to 10.35 million and the average length of stay was up 12 per cent. The number of hotel rooms was up 4 per cent on the same quarter last year, with 75,171 rooms and 577 hotels in the emirate. Hotel occupancy averaged at 87 per cent, up 8 per cent on last year, while average room rates were up 7 per cent to Dh655.

"It's not only because of the Arab Spring," said Sami Nasser, the Vice President of Operations at Sofitel, Middle East, Egypt and Indian Ocean. "Dubai did a lot to attract those people. Dubai as a city, the Government and Emirates [Airline] is really doing a lot of promotion. That means, even with the new hotels opening in Dubai, the hotels are still doing very well."

Emerging markets are also providing huge growth for the emirate, he said. "You have some shift of business of course. When you talk about Saudis, Kuwaitis, they were going to Egypt and now they're coming here. But there have been increases from Russia, China, Brazil."

The luxury Sofitel at Jumeriah Beach Residence in Dubai has had occupancy levels of about 90 per cent in the first quarter of the year, it said while average rates also increased about 12 per cent. The hotel was fully booked yesterday, partly because of all the business travellers that had descended on Dubai for the Arabian Travel Market.

The company plans to expand in the emirate with a plan to open a Sofitel hotel on The Palm Jumeirah at the end of this year and a property near the Burj Khalifa in Dubai next year. Fairmont said it planned to open its hotel on the Palm in September, and a new resort for Ajman next year. "Dubai's market is going up," said Selim El Zyr, the President and Chief Executive of Rotana Hotels. "Everybody is excited about Dubai. It's a nice hype."

Occupancy levels were more than 80 per cent at its hotels across the city in the first quarter, he said. "That is something we have not seen since 2008, 2007." Rates increased by between 10 to 15 per cent at Rotana's hotels in the emirate in the first quarter, Mr El Zyr said. "Rates are coming back but not at the same pace as the occupancy."

Saudi Arabia was the biggest source market for Dubai in the first quarter, followed by India, and then the UK, the data from the DTCM showed.

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