Dubai hoteliers look forward to busy Christmas and New Year

Increase in staycations and safety levels in the emirate boost optimism

Dubai hoteliers are confident a busy Christmas and New Year period will help them to bounce back from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

An increase in staycations and visitors from other countries will help them to finish the year strongly, they say.

Stuart Birkwood, general manager of Radisson Red Dubai Silicon Oasis, said hotels would have a significantly larger number of UAE residents than usual at this time of year as many opt to take holidays  in the country.

“This year definitely feels different. From speaking to our regular guests and to those in our local community, many have decided not to travel over the festive period,” he said.

Influenced by the lockdown in their home countries, these travellers are looking for a safe haven to spend the festive season and holidays

"Some do expect families visiting them from abroad but I don't think the numbers will be anything like previous years due to the restrictions on travel from the usual source markets for Dubai visitors."

Dubai, like every other tourism hot spot around the world, felt the effects of the pandemic.

In 2019, there were 16.9 million visitors to the emirate. Between July and September, when Dubai reopened to tourists, there were 417,000 visitors compared with more than 3.7 million during the same period the previous year.

Market data provider STRsaid occupancy levels went up to 65 per cent in Dubai between November 30 and December 6.

The increase was due to strong domestic and recent international demand.

Last month, Dubai Tourism chief executive Issam Kazim told The National the country's swift response to the pandemic had given it an edge over competing markets as tourists began to return to the emirate.

Hussein Al Kurdi, general manager of Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach, said the government’s quick action reassured tourists that Dubai was safe to visit.

DUBAI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , November 26 –  Christmas decoration at the Winter Wonderland in Ski Dubai at Mall of the Emirates in Dubai. Winter Wonderland will open to the public on 1st of December. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For News/Online/Standalone/Instagram/Big Picture

"We expect the traditional source markets from Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States to be the main stream of business," he said.

“Influenced by the temporary lockdown in their respective countries, these travellers are looking for a safe haven to spend the festive season and holidays.”

Mr Al Kurdi said the industry expected local guests looking for staycation deals over Christmas and the New Year's holiday, keeping with the trend seen throughout 2020.

"Local tourism experienced a massive growth this year impacted by the travel restrictions," he said.

"Emiratis and residents chose staycations ahead of international travel with particular preference for beach properties and leisure facilities."

The early signs are encouraging for the sector, said David Allan, cluster general manager of the Dubai Waterfront and Dubai Canal View Radisson Blu hotels.

“We are seeing relatively strong demand for Christmas and even more so for the New Year period,” he said.

"This certainly bucks the trend of recent months.

"Demand is coming from a combination of local residents and international travellers from nations that have lifted restrictions on travelling to Dubai and the UAE."

Dubai’s tourism market also received a boost after it was added to the UK’s air corridor last month. Travellers from the UK will not need to self-isolate for 14 days after they arrive in the emirate.

“The UAE is in a very strong position in the run-up to the festive season,” said Caroline Rowe, a communications consultant who has worked with several hotels in Dubai.

“We are also seeing large-scale campaigns by Emirates and Dubai Tourism to further spread the message that Dubai is very much open and ready to welcome the world.”

John Clifton, general manager of the Bonnington Hotel in Dubai, said many properties were offering special festive entertainment to appeal to residents who would not be travelling home for Christmas.

Visitors from new markets, such as Israel, are also expected to boost tourist numbers.

“We are seeing increased interest from the UK, Russia, India and Israel, with UAE residents also seeking good value quality dining options for the festive period,” Mr Clifton said.