Dubai hotels brace for 'summer like no other' as global travel restrictions start to ease

Hospitality sector predicts many more foreign tourists will brave the heat this year, as they offer free room upgrades and slash nightly costs

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Hotels expect a surge in holiday bookings this summer as the global vaccination push eases travel anxiety.

Managers expect many foreign tourists will brave the heat for a long-awaited trip abroad.

They have received inquiries from international markets including Russia, the UK, and Germany, and many are enticing guests with free room upgrades and discounts of up to 35 per cent.

Thomas Grundner, head of commercial at JA Resorts & Hotels, said the speed of the UAE's vaccine campaign had made it attractive to international travellers.

We are expecting a summer boom that is unlike previous years, as people will be very keen to travel to more open countries

“This year we are expecting a summer boom that is unlike previous years,” he said.

“The reason being that we feel many countries have endured strict lockdowns and their citizens will be very keen to travel to more open countries once they can.

“Despite the heat, Dubai still has many attractions open, from indoor theme parks to spas, restaurants, and super-sized malls. We think this will attract summer visitors from countries where things are more closed.”

The country has forged ahead in the global race to vaccinate its public against Covid-19. It boasts the world's third-fastest vaccine campaign according to the Our World in Data project, compiled at the University of Oxford.

As countries open up travel corridors over the coming months, hotels in Dubai said they were prepared for last-minute bookings.

Throughout the summer, some hotels under the JA group will offer onsite PCR testing for guests, who require it for travel.

In terms of demand, Mr Grundner said he hoped to see more interest from the UK next month, as well as Saudi Arabia.

Vinayak Mahtani, chief executive of bnbme, a holiday home management company, said it was predicting its best year yet.


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“For the past month, we have been targeting clients who will be visiting Dubai, as other options to travel in the summer are limited,” he said.

"We foresee the GCC, the US and western Europe to be lead source markets over the summer in Dubai.

“We are taking non-refundable bookings for the summer months, with several bookings already in the books.

“The way it looks, we will need to increase our property portfolio for the summer.”

Last year, hotel stays in the UAE were the world's second busiest after China, hosting 14.8 million guests throughout the 12-month period.

The staycation boom from UAE residents and a brief influx from foreign tourists over Christmas and New Year also contributed.

Holidaymakers spent an average of 3.7 nights at 1,089 establishments, according to the World Tourism Organisation and the Emirates Tourism Council.

Studio One Hotel in Dubai Studio City is expecting a surge in last-minute bookings for the summer. Supplied 
Studio One Hotel in Dubai Studio City is expecting a surge in last-minute bookings for the summer. Supplied 

This year, that number is expected to increase, with travel sentiment beginning to improve as countries step up efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.

One of Dubai’s leading hospitality experts predicted the staycation market would enjoy a strong summer this year.

“A lot of people won’t be able to go back to their home countries this summer,” said Naim Maadad, chief executive of Gates Hospitality.

“Certain countries will still be very difficult to visit this summer. They won’t have the freedom to do as much as they could in Dubai.

“Everyone is grounded and people need alternatives.”

Mr Maadad also praised the authorities in Dubai for allowing outlets to serve food without curtains or screens during daytime in Ramadan.

“The relaxation of the rules is very positive and it says Dubai is open and ready to welcome back international tourists in a safe manner,” he said.

Michelle Purnell, marketing and communications manager at Studio One Hotel, said many hotels across Dubai were looking forward to seeing more tourism in the hotter months this year.

“With more than 9 million vaccine doses administered in the UAE, Dubai will be a safe place to visit and fully ready to welcome tourists from a variety of destinations,” she said.

“Currently, with regards to advance overseas stayers, we expect to see a shorter lead time in bookings due to restrictions being lifted in various different countries.”

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Ms Purnell said the hotel, which has 141 rooms, had been hitting its targets for the year.

Colin Baker, regional director for Middle East at StayWell Hospitality Group, said it had not yet received a huge number of advance bookings.

“Guests want certainty of travel, so last-minute bookings are at the moment very much the norm and this will continue to be the case until such time as flights return to some form of normality,” he said.

“As we forecast bookings to come last minute at a slower pace compared to the last two years, Park Regis Kris Kin has devised summer-exclusive hotel value added perks.

“[Guests can enjoy] free room upgrades, guaranteed late checkout, savings of up to 35 per cent on stays, and free stay giveaways to entice visitors even more during the sunny season."

The room rate per night for July bookings currently averages about Dh180 for Park Regis Kris Kin, Dh260 per night for Studio One Hotel and Dh700 for JA Palm Tree Court.