DUBAI: Dubai hotel occupancy last month hit its highest level since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with many operators putting some of the rebound down to workations, where working remotely is combined with a stay in a hotel or resort.
Data from London-based analytics firm STR showed that while average occupancy levels in Dubai were at 71 percent in December 2020, down 10 percent year-on-year, they were the highest they had been since January last year.
The data showed that the average daily rate in December in Dubai was 608.92 UAE dirhams ($165.77), down 9.1 percent year-on-year, while average revenue per available room was down 18.2 percent year-on-year to 432.34 dirhams.
While the removal of the UAE from the UK’s travel corridor and the imposing of a national lockdown in Britain are likely to impact occupancy levels in 2021, operators are still seeing healthy numbers among UAE residents.
“With various travel restrictions still in place for international flights, we remain focused on fueling demand with staycations and domestic leisure trips in many markets, including the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council),” James Britchford, vice president of commercial for India, the Middle East and Africa at UK hotel conglomerate IHG, told Arab News.
“In the UAE specifically, along with the significant rise in domestic stays, we’ve seen international demand return gradually due to various travel corridors with international markets,” he said.
“However, it’s not a linear process, because as we see progress in one location, another market is often taking a step back due to a rise in cases (of COVID-19) or lockdowns being reinstated,” he added.
“We remain cognizant of the evolving circumstances, and at a local level our aim is to tactically and sensitively drive demand to our hotels while adapting to fast-changing market nuances and consumer sentiment.”
One of the factors at play is the ability of some employees working remotely to opt to stay in a hotel during the working week.
“The hotel industry in the Middle East has gradually started to recover, especially in places such as Dubai,” said Danielle Curtis, exhibition director for the Middle East at Arabian Travel Market, the annual travel expo held in Dubai every summer and taking place in May this year.
“Staycations created the initial demand after lockdown. The next step has been the continued growth of workations … which tend to bring in more visitors from overseas,” she added.
“Dubai has introduced a remote visa program that would entitle visitors to stay for up to 12 months, with access to co-working spaces and government support services.”
In order to facilitate those on workations, some hotels in the region are offering pop-up co-working spaces.
“COVID-19 has completely disrupted the traditional office culture, and the hospitality sector has been quick to offer alternative solutions for those looking to combine working from home with leisure time,” said Mark Kirby, chief operating officer of Emaar Hospitality.
“The introduction of the workation concept isn’t just a novel idea, it’s about making adjustments to meet the new market demands, allowing those who aren’t currently working from their office to enjoy a luxury hospitality experience whilst continuing their work commitments.”