Abu Dhabi hotels eye profits boost

Hotels in the capital are filling their rooms and pushing up rates as the World Ophthalmology Congress, the biggest exhibition to be held in the capital, comes to town.
Rotana's Centro Al Manhal hotel in Abu Dhabi is fully booked. Pawan Singh / The National
Rotana's Centro Al Manhal hotel in Abu Dhabi is fully booked. Pawan Singh / The National

Abu Dhabi hotels are increasing rates as 12,000 delegates descend on the biggest exhibition to be held in the capital.

Some properties are already at full capacity for the World Ophthalmology Congress that starts this Thursday and runs until next Monday.

"February is going to be a good month, that's for sure, mainly because of the World Ophthalmology Congress," said Philippe Anric, the general manager of Rotana's Centro Al Manhal hotel in Abu Dhabi. "We are fully booked [for the event]. It's challenging to find a room. Most of the hotels are fully booked for this period. Prices went up. If you compare the volume and demand for us it's a mini-F1 event."

A strong events season so far this year is helping to temper concerns about recent hotel openings and increased competition for guests.

The exhibitions industry is an important economic driver for the capital and one that authorities are actively trying to expand, with the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (Adnec) generating Dh2.38 billion (US$647.9 million) in 2010.

The Centro, which normally charges about Dh350 a night, has been able to charge rates of up to Dh900 while the conference runs. "It's going to be great for Abu Dhabi," said Mr Anric. "That's the kind of event we need. It would be great if we could have one event like this every three months."

Adnec said the ophthalmology event was expected to draw 12,000 delegates, using all of the conference centre's indoor space.

The exhibitions sector was playing an important role in driving business into the city, the hotel chain Millennium said.

"I think Adnec is doing a fantastic job, even though the global picture is very gloomy," said Ali Hamad Lakhraim, the president and chief executive of Millennium & Copthorne, Middle East and Africa.

Hoteliers said that other events including the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship last month, the Volvo Ocean Race, and the World Future Energy Summit, had helped to drive good levels of business into the city, despite the increase in the supply of hotel rooms.

The Fairmont Bab Al Bahr also expects to fill all its rooms during the ophthalmology congress. "Business in the first quarter this year is very robust," said Arshad Hussain, the director of sales and marketing at the luxury hotel.

"The first two months of the new year are strong due to major events in the city," he added.

"Compared to last year, the hotel has seen strong performance in both occupancy and rates. Given our status as the headquarter hotel for the World Ophthalmology Congress, this has enabled us to achieve higher [revenue per available room] growth compared to last year."

But there remain concerns looking ahead to the rest of the year. "The next two quarters will be more challenging, given the number of hotel rooms coming on stream in the city," said Mr Hussain.

rbundhun@thenational.ae

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Published: February 13, 2012 04:00 AM

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