UAE hotels cashing in on demand from Saudi families

By K. T. ABDURABB | ARAB NEWS

DUBAI: The UAE attracted a huge number of Saudi nationals this week as several people left the Kingdom to spend a short school midterm holiday in the UAE.

Hotel and tourism specialists said the number of visitors might cross 200,000.

Government officials, however, could not confirm this figure immediately.

In fact, holidays in Saudi Arabia and Oman, combined with the Dubai Shopping Festival, have created a huge shortage for hotel rooms in the UAE.

The hotel occupancy has been high for the last one week and rooms were not available even in small hotels in Sharjah and Ajman.

Hussam Al-Jaffar, a Saudi National from Dammam, said he was enjoying his stay in Dubai and most of his hotel mates are Saudi nationals.

“Every year, I visit Dubai with my family. I prefer to spend my vacation in the UAE because it is close to Saudi Arabia and it has modern shopping facilities like European countries,” he added.

“Of course, I visit tourist attractions in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi too,” he said.

Thomas Kurian, director of sales and marketing at Flora Group of Hotels in Dubai, said Saudi nationals occupied 50 percent of their rooms during the past week.

“We have about 700 rooms and 50 percent of our guests for this period have been from Saudi Arabia. Since our property is non-alcoholic, the demand from Saudi Arabia is always high,” he added.

Salem Abdullah, a visitor from Saudi Arabia who was staying at a hotel in Ajman, said he could not find a room in Dubai because of high demand.

“The demand is high and hotels have increased the tariff also. Even in Ajman, I am paying more than AED600 per night per room. It was AED250 before,” said Salem, who is a regular visitor to the UAE.

“Since it is vacation time for schools in Saudi Arabia, we have seen an amazing turnout of families in Dubai. All our hotels are fully booked and have up to 60 percent of their guests from the Kingdom. Dubai Shopping Festival has once again proved to be a major attraction for families from the neighboring GCC countries, particularly Saudi Arabia,” Sadiq Iqbal, director of sales and revenue management, Coral Hotels Resorts, said.

“We are doing well at the Grand Millennium Dubai with the hotel enjoying 100 percent occupancy. Since we had secured our business in advance, we could only accommodate 10 percent guests from KSA. We have seen a high demand from Saudi Arabia recently,” Peter Mansourian, general manager of Grand Millennium Dubai told Arab News.

“The Holiday Inn Dubai in Al-Barsha is fully booked with 20 percent of guests from Saudi Arabia. There has been a high turnout of travelers from the Kingdom owing to the school holidays in the country,” said Gilles Nicolas, director of operations, Holiday Inn Dubai.

“We have had a terrific response from Saudi Arabia. We are running at 100 percent occupancy with nearly 30 percent of our guests from Saudi Arabia. We have both leisure and corporate clients owing to two major events happening in Dubai — DSF and Arab Health,” Hassan Al-Jawhari, director of sales and marketing, Park Regis Kris Kin Hotel in Dubai, told Arab News.

“Saudi Arabia is one of our key feeder markets and we have, at the moment, nearly 30 percent of our guests from the Kingdom,” said Aamir Pervez, general manager, Corp. Executive Hotel Apartments.

Hotel and apartment rooms are not available in Ajman, says Dinesh, manager of Hamilton Hotel in Ajman. Currently 50 percent of my guests are from Saudi Arabia and Oman.

“It was an unexpected turn-out from Saudi Arabia, we couldn’t accommodate many guests. I diverted a number of guests to hotels in Umm Al-Quwain and Ras Al-Khaimah,” Dinesh added.

He agreed that hotel rates have shot up.

“Rooms are not even available at furnished apartments, so, naturally the rates will go up,” he said.

“We used to go to Egypt and Lebanon. However, since last year we visit Dubai and it is a calm place with attractions” said Khaled Omar, a visitor from Jeddah.

Abdul Rahman A. M. Al-Khateeri, a school student who came with his parents by road from Riyadh, shared similar sentiments. “For me, the most interesting place is Sharjah’s Islamic Museum, because I learned many things from there,” Abdul Rahman said.

Dinesh Chaddah, general manager of Sharjah-based Citymax Hotels, said he is sad as he could not accommodate many guests from Saudi Arabia.

“We were overbooked due to DSF and Arab Health Exhibition in Dubai. In general, most of our guests, are from Saudi Arabia and Oman only,” he said.

Dubai tourism officials said the visitor figures will be ready by next month.

A top executive at Sharjah tourism office said that they are unable to provide the number of visitors at this time as the data were still being processed.