ABU DHABI // The Red Bull Air Race and an influx of tourists from Eastern Europe have brought a surge in room reservations this weekend for hotels already reporting high occupancy rates because of near-perfect weather. Visitors from Russia and the Baltic states will be flocking to the UAE for a weekend in which they will mark Easter, which falls on April 19 in the Orthodox Christian calendar. In Abu Dhabi, they will be competing for rooms with fans arriving for the Red Bull event, which takes place over the water next to the Corniche public beach on April 17-18 and is expected to be watched by as many as 350,000 people.
Hoteliers in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Fujairah and Ras al Khaimah have seen bookings soaring, in contrast with recent decreases as the global financial crisis hit the tourism industry. "Because of the Red Bull race we have a higher occupancy rate than usual," said Dania Malki, spokeswoman for Le Meridien in Abu Dhabi. "We still have a few rooms. Reservations are usually made a month or so before the event, but nowadays people are waiting until the last minute. During the event itself the occupancy rate will be higher."
Most of the guests are coming into the capital from other emirates, she added. Reservations clerks in Dubai hotels confirmed an influx of visitors from Russia for the Orthodox Easter holidays. One clerk in a Fujairah hotel said the boost in business was "because of the good weather, and because it's the Orthodox Easter this weekend." During the last winter holiday season, which coincides with New Year celebrations and Orthodox Christmas holidays, hoteliers reported a steep decline in the number of tourists from Russia.
Almost all of the high-end Jumeirah properties in Dubai are turning down reservation requests, citing high demand spurred by the weather. "It's just perfect weather. It's not too hot and I guess people want to get away before the summer," said a spokeswoman at the reservations desk at the Al Maha Desert Resort. At the Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel and Towers, Deeksha Trivedi, the director of sales and marketing, said business hotels like hers have been faring well despite the downturn.
"Historically, the first quarter of the year is one of our strongest quarters with high occupancy averaging above 85 per cent and this year our numbers tell us that it's not any different," she said. "Which is a good indication that although the global economy has weakened and affected the travel trends, the demand is still there and going strong." In Fujairah, hotels are either fully booked or are expecting to be by Friday. At the JAL Fujairah Resort and Spa, the occupancy rate was at a healthy 93 per cent. Meanwhile, the Hilton Fujairah Resort was turning down guests yesterday.
Raza Abbas, the head of sales and marketing at the Hilton Fujairah, said the hotel was overbooked this weekend and that it had managed to maintain a high occupancy rate throughout the downturn. Fujairah in particular is known for being popular with Russian and Baltic tourists. Hotels were also heavily booked in Ras al Khaimah, where a number of new properties have recently opened offering discount rates for short breaks and getaways.
The new wing of the Hilton Ras al Khaimah still had a few rooms available, but the older Hilton Ras al Khaimah Resort and Spa was fully booked. The Cove in Ras al Khaimah, which opened in February, also said it was full. Maurice Di Rooij, general manager at The Cove, said many of the guests were taking an extended Easter holiday in the emirates. email@example.com