Business is brisk during tourism's slow season

Summer is usually the slow season, but good prices and special offers lured many travellers, travel agents said.

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ABU DHABI // Tourism is up significantly from last year for Ramadan, hotel and tour operators have said. Summer is usually the slowest season for tourism, but good prices and special offers lured many leisure travellers here, travel agents said. Restaurants have been booked solid several days in advance, frustrating visitors who do not have reservations. For example, restaurants at the Beach Rotana Hotel in Abu Dhabi have been full all month with both tourists and residents.

Seventy per cent of visitors are business travellers, according to the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, but more holidaymakers are coming to the capital for its hotels, golf courses and cultural attractions. Barbara Saunders, a spokeswoman for the tourism authority, said: "It's always hard to get exact figures for tourism, as often people will come and stay with friends or family. But it's definitely been a busy month."

Many people combine work and pleasure. Golf courses such as the Abu Dhabi Golf Club have reported year-on-year increases in business. "For Ramadan, tourists seem to be staying in Abu Dhabi longer than they have done before," said Ian Gardner, the club's manager. Mr Gardner credited an international advertising campaign by the tourism authority and the opening of more overseas tourism offices. Increased attention by the rest of the world brings more tourists here, he said, making the UAE more of a "destination".

"The Abu Dhabi Golf Championship has made the emirate more popular," he said. Guest bookings at the Shangri-La hotel more than doubled from last year, when the hotel opened. "Occupancy over Ramadan was 31 per cent in 2007, compared to 74 per cent this year," said Natalie Glorney, a spokeswoman. "This is of course a large increase, although we did not have our full room inventory last year." Thirty per cent of the guests were from the US, she said, while 11 per cent were from the UK and 10 per cent were from Germany. Only five per cent came from GCC countries.

Lama Tours in Dubai had 30 per cent more customers than during Ramadan last year, said Lalit Kagmani, director of sales and marketing. He said most visitors were aged 20 to 45 and from the subcontinent. Lama usually runs 10 tours a day but lately has run 25, he said. Half of Lama's customers were visiting the UAE for the first time. "Some people have come here for business and just wanted a chance to see the country for pleasure," Mr Kagmani said.

Holger Schroth, general manager of the Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates, said: "This is traditionally a quieter period on our calendar as many potential guests choose to remain close to home to be with family during the holy month. However, we have seen a slight increase in accommodation figures this Ramadan compared to last year's results. ... We have welcomed many more visitors heralding from the GCC, Europe and American regions."