Abu Dhabi hotels boosted by Pope Francis' visit

Surge in bookings and rates after announcement of Papal visit

FILE PHOTO: A general view of the Abu Dhabi skyline is seen, December 15, 2009. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/File Photo
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Hoteliers in Abu Dhabi are cashing in on Pope Francis's visit with some customers ­being charged double rates to stay in the city for the landmark event.

The pontiff's trip to the capital on February 3 will be the first time a head of the Roman Catholic Church has made an official visit to the region, and hotels are expected to be full during his three-day stay.

It is anticipated that a crowd of about 135,000 people will attend a special Mass at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, February 5.

Hoteliers told The ­National they were prepared for a surge in last-minute bookings that would bring them close to full capacity.

"We have witnessed a strong momentum with a steady increase in bookings after the announcement of the first papal visit to the country's capital city, particularly from expatriates from across the GCC," said Christian Baudat, area vice president of Rotana, which has 17 properties in Abu Dhabi.

“It is worth adding that Rotana hotels in proximity to Zayed Sports City are already fully booked and we expect that occupancy will surge over 90 per cent at our downtown properties, thanks to an anticipated rise in last-minute bookings.”

Rotana is not the only hotel group gearing up for a sharp increase in customers in two weeks' time.

“The visit of Pope Francis to Abu Dhabi is expected to be one of the single largest ­gatherings ever held in the UAE,” said William Costley, Hilton vice president for the Arabian Peninsula and Turkey.

“Hilton saw an immediate increase in requests for accommodation in Abu Dhabi once the announcement of this historic visit was made.

The Hilton Capital Grand Abu Dhabi is now running at 100 per cent occupancy ahead of the Papal Mass at the Zayed Stadium."

A quick look at Booking.com confirmed that the Hilton Capital Grand Abu Dhabi is sold out on February 4, the night ­before the Pope is due to ­deliver the Mass.

But there are other hotels available if guests are prepared to pay higher rates than usual.

A one-night stay in a room for two adults at The Aloft Abu Dhabi will set guests back Dh230 this week, but the rate rises to Dh730 for a similar room on February 4.

The Capital Centre Arjaan by Rotana is selling a room for two adults this week for Dh226 but the same room will cost Dh575 for the night before the Mass.

The Novotel Abu Dhabi Al Bustan’s price increases from Dh279 to Dh653 on the night of February 4.

The Holiday Inn Abu Dhabi was another popular choice with guests and has sold out ­already ahead of the Mass.

Andaz Capital Gate Abu ­Dhabi did not quite double its price but there was still a significant increase from Dh455 to Dh745.

Another hotel that was getting a boost from the Pope’s visit was the Aparthotel Adagio Abu Dhabi Al Bustan, where prices jump from Dh245 to Dh540.