DUBAI: After one of the toughest years for the hotel industry in living memory, Gulf hoteliers are eyeing Ramadan as a springboard for recovery.
With international travel still severely limited, hotels are looking to attract so-called staycationers with deep discounts and deals during the holy month.
Prices are already historically low in many Gulf cities. The average daily room rate (ADR) at Dubai hotels was $145.90 in the first two months of 2021, down 13 percent from a year earlier, according to data provider STR. In Riyadh they were 11 percent lower at $151.40. Muscat experienced the biggest drop with a 52.5 percent slump to $75.10.
Ramadan deals are likely to push prices down further for many in the coming weeks. The holy month offers a further opportunity for Gulf hotels as families look to take some time off following a challenging year.
Hoteliers, including Raffles and Jumeirah in Dubai, W Abu Dhabi at Yas Island and Hilton Doha the Pearl in Qatar are all offering Ramadan staycation deals, especially for residents.
Wyndham is offering guests 15 to 25 percent off the best available rate when they stay three or more nights and book direct for stays between April 01 and Sept. 30.Accor is also offering discounts of up to 30 percent for stays through May 11.
Other traditional sources of Ramadan revenue will not be available to hotels. Only pilgrims who have been vaccinated or have already recovered from COVID-19 will be allowed to visit Makkah during Ramadan this year, while large gatherings for iftar meals will be limited throughout the region.
“The staycation market is a very useful means of filling demand when borders are closed and has been used with success right around the world,” Simon Allison, CEO of HOFTEL and organizer of this year’s GIOHIS summit in November, told Arab News. “In the end, as the domestic market is relatively limited it is almost inevitable that it will need to be offered discounts.”
However, with room rates already very low, hotels are looking at ways of attracting guests without pushing their margins into the red, such as resort credits.
For instance, Jebel Ali Beach Hotel Dubai is offering between 200 dirhams ($54.46) and 400 dirhams of credit redeemable toward food and beverages for guests booking more expensive rooms, and is only valid for UAE residents. IHG Hotels & Resorts has a staycation deal with free breakfast and dinner at its InterContinental, voco, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn properties in Saudi Arabia through Sept. 30.
“There’s no doubt that resort hotels and markets are performing much better than business ones,” said Kostas Nikolaidis, an executive at STR. “There’s also a significant difference between a domestic and an international stay. The length of stay, booking window as well as ancillary spending (F&B etc.) is different between an international and a domestic traveler.Hotels have tried to adjust in order to maximize their revenues in various ways.”Discounts are likely to extend way beyond Ramadan into the summer. The Saudi government announced in November 2020 that it would reopen domestic tourism this summer after 80 percent of citizens surveyed said they would rather holiday at home this year.
“Hotels focused on cost-cutting last year, which was inevitable,” said Allison. “Now they are working on staffing up again and getting the best people from a large available labor pool; focusing on sales and marketing strategies and means to differentiate their offering as travel gradually returns.”