Iftar prices cut on 'August effect'

Some Dubai hotels have reduced prices of iftars and suhoors by up to 20 per cent in an effort to stimulate demand.
Many hotels in Dubai have reduced the price of iftar in an effort to stimulate demand.
Many hotels in Dubai have reduced the price of iftar in an effort to stimulate demand.

Sluggish corporate iftar bookings have led some hotels in Dubai to cut the prices of Ramadan buffets by up to 20 per cent compared with last year, despite soaring food prices.

Room bookings traditionally decline during Ramadan and this year is particularly difficult because the holy month takes place during August, a challenging time for hotels because of the sweltering summer heat.

Lavish iftars and suhoors at hotels, which companies often use to entertain clients and employees, are a way of replacing some of these lost room revenues.

"We are having difficulty this year," said Habib Khan, the general manager of the Arabian Courtyard hotel in Dubai. "I think many of the decision-makers are not in town. It needs a lot of haggling and negotiation and discounting before we can conclude something. I have lowered my price this year on the food and beverage by about 20 per cent - despite [the fact] that the food and consumer goods items have gone up. It's both the budget constraints as well as the impact of the timing."

Up to about three years ago companies, including property firms, had large budgets to spend on corporate iftars and suhours. But now the purse strings have been tightened substantially, Mr Khan said.

"Those glory days have passed already."

Hotels in the UAE saw a slump in room bookings as soon as Ramadan began, as GCC guests checked out to return home for the holy month. Hoteliers are increasingly focusing on the UAE market to attract guests this month, as European tourists also stay away because of the heat.

"There is a drop," said Wael El Behi, the executive assistant manager at Ramada Downtown Dubai. "We closed the month of July with 90 per cent occupancy. However, the last day [Sunday] we dropped to 70 per cent." The Samaya hotel in Deira said it had also cut the prices of its iftar by 20 per cent because of the timing of Ramadan, to stimulate demand.

"The first week of Ramadan is always very slow," said Fouad Bizri, the general manager of the Samaya hotel.

"We have some bookings from big companies, mainly pharmaceutical companies."

The Media Rotana hotel in Dubai has reduced the price of its iftar by about 10 per cent this year compared with last year, although it says it has actually introduced a more elaborate buffet.

"We're hoping to get more volume from that," said Mustafa Ainen, the general manager of the Media Rotana hotel."We're trying to give something to the guest something to entice them to have iftar in our restaurant rather than at home."

He said the hotel had a number of inquiries from corporates, adding they tended to book last minute, so it was difficult at this stage to predict how the month would turn out.

Some hotels in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, however, appear to have pushed up the prices of their iftars by about Dh10 (US$22.72) this year, while many have left the prices the same as last year.

Fairmont Bab A Bahr in Abu Dhabi said it had increased the prices of both its iftars and suhoors by Dh10 this year.

rbundhun@thenational.ae

Published: August 3, 2011 04:00 AM

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