Coronavirus: luxury staycations on the rise as residents look to home comforts amid travel restrictions

Holiday home rental firm boss and hoteliers explain how Dubai residents are still vacationing despite travel restrictions

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: N/A: A visitor to the Address Fountain Views Hotel takes pictures of Downtown Dubai. Tuesday, 3rd of March, 2020. Downtown, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Luxury staycations are on the rise in the UAE as restless residents seek a change of scene with plans for holidays abroad put on ice by the coronavirus pandemic.

Restrictions on global air travel enforced to combat the spread on Covid-19 have hit the hospitality trade hard as the country misses out on an influx of tourism.

But an executive in the sector said there has been a boom in the numbers of people opting for staycations, especially at high-end properties that offer private pools and Jacuzzis.

It was even suggested that demand was so high that Dubai’s staycation market could prove more profitable than last year’s.

"People have started to take advantage of the lockdown by renting luxury properties with private swimming pools"

That was despite the government urging people to stay at home as they battle to control the spread of Covid-19.

It will be July at the earliest before anyone can even think about going for a holiday outside the UAE, said Vinayak Mahtani, chief executive of holiday home rental business BNB ME.

“People have started to take advantage of the lockdown by renting luxury properties with private swimming pools and Jacuzzis,” he said.

“It’s a new business model that has emerged for us in recent weeks.”

Mr Mahtani said demand was through the roof during the 24-hour lockdown period that lasted for three weeks.

“People were able to apply for a permit to travel to the properties without issue,” he said.

“A member of team would then meet them on arrival at the property.

“The minimum length of booking we have received since the restrictions came into place is seven days.”

Many of the people who had booked properties, through Mr Mahtani’s company, shared frustration at being confined to their apartments during the coronavirus restrictions.

He said the number of people taking staycations would only increase as restrictions on movement were relaxed.

Vinayak Mahtani has said demand for luxury staycations in Dubai remains robust despite travel restrictions. Courtesy: BNB ME

One property that has been selling out of apartments with swimming pools, even throughout the 24-hour lockdown, is the Five Jumeirah Village hotel in Dubai.

“With beaches and swimming pools closed due to Covid-19, our apartments with private swimming pools and Jacuzzis have been a popular choice,” said Aloki Batra, chief executive of Five Hospitality.

“Now the restrictions have eased a little, we have had more enquiries from UAE residents looking for staycations.

“We also expect a pick-up at our sister property, Five Palm Jumeirah.”

He said all 168 one and two-bedroom flats, with private swimming pools and spas, had been fully booked out at the Jumeirah Village hotel for the past three weeks.

Serviced apartments are also been popular with Dubai residents who are unsure about how the short-term future will unfold because of the coronavirus outbreak.

“Some residents don’t want to commit or extend their long-term contract due to uncertainty of their job situation,” said Paul Franz, general Manager at the Radisson Blu Residence, Dubai Marina.

“Staying in a serviced apartment combines both advantages of staying flexible with cancellation and payment plans as well as having a feeling of home away from home.”

One person who booked a week-long stay, during Dubai’s 24-hour lockdown, at a five bedroom villa with access to a private beach on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah was Indian homemaker Sneha Harjani.

“We stayed there with our two children and my helper for a week from April 12,” she said.

“The villa was a little on the expensive side, Dh18,000 for the stay, but it was well worth it.”

Residents in Dubai are now allowed to move freely between the hours of 6am and 10pm without a permit after the emirate relaxed safety measures.

Now hotels across the country are trying to make up for lost time by reopening with staycation offers they hope will entice guests back through their doors.

Ms Harjani said the investment paid off as it lifted the mood of her children who were feeling pent up being stuck in the family’s three-bedroom apartment in Dubai Marina.

“We needed a bigger place as my husband, who works as a financial trader, had an important project to work on and the children were frustrated because we were reluctant to let them play on our balcony,” she said.

“It made a huge difference because we had much more space and the weather was good. It was a refreshing change.”

Ms Harjani said the family was able to apply for a moving permit during the lockdown and did not have to leave the flat for the entire week.

When Indian businessman Rajesh Doshi, 51, found it difficult to concentrate on work at home he decided to take the whole family for a four-day stay at a penthouse in Downtown Dubai.

The view from a two-bedroom private apartment at Five Jumeirah Village Hotel in Dubai. Courtesy: Five Jumeirah Villlage Hotel.

“I found we were all getting fed up staying indoors in the house and needed a change,” the tech firm owner said.

“It was much easier to work with the extra room as it was more peaceful without everyone feeling they were on top of one another.

“The penthouse cost Dh6,000 for the stay but I found it was value for money and I would definitely do it again.”

Mr Doshi took his wife and three sons, aged 15, 16 and 25, as well as their maid, to the five-bedroom penthouse.

“It was great to change up the routine and have a minibreak,” he said.

“Most of the time we didn’t cook and just ordered Deliveroo to the penthouse.”