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UAE hotels pin hopes on Iftar and Suhour meals as occupancy falls in Ramadan

Hotels across the country are gearing up for Ramadan, banking heavily on their iftar and suhour meal offerings to make up for a drop in occupancy rates during the month.

Last Ramadan, which continued for the most part of July, occupancy rates at the four and five-star hotels in Dubai dropped to 54.5 per cent with an average room rate of US$196.9. In Abu Dhabi, the figures were 50.1 per cent and $105.8, according to the Dubai-based consultancy HotStats Mena.

Average occupancy and room rates for 2013 were around 80.5 per cent and $324.44 in Dubai, while in Abu Dhabi these were 72.56 per cent and $153.79.

“We expect hotel occupancy and average rates in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to drop this July from last year mainly due to the impact of Ramadan combined with the onset of summer,” said Rashid Aboobacker, a senior consultant with TRI Hospitality Consulting, which compiles the Hotstats data. “However, the month will benefit from the few days of strong demand at the end of the month due to the Eid holidays.”

Hotels are courting more corporate clients as the economy looks steady.

On The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence in Dubai, Amwaj Rotana hosts an average of 120 to 150 diners for iftar every day, and much higher on the weekends.

About 20 per cent of these bookings tend to be for corporate groups, said Enad Tannous, the hotel’s general manager.

“In terms of confirmed bookings for groups and corporate iftar functions, we see an 8 to 10 per cent increase on the previous year,” he said.

Going by trends in previous years, about 80 per cent of the bookings tend to come from private individuals, with the rest from corporates.

And this year, three days before the start of Ramadan, confirmed corporate bookings were higher than last year.

“The hotel has adopted an aggressive plan to target the corporate market for Ramadan this year to secure companies’ iftar functions,” Mr Tannous said. “It is better primed this Ramadan for groups to visit due to the traffic condition, which has eased within the hotel’s vicinity, as well as due to the newly opened The Beach development on the hotel’s doorstep.”

Prices have also fallen, with the rise in the number of establishments offering iftar and suhour in the city, he said.

Abu Dhabi’s Dusit Thani expects the volume of traffic to double at its restaurants.

That is “based on our current inquiries received as last was our first year in operation, and Abu Dhabi residents have become very familiar with our brand”, said Rami Flefel, the assistant marketing manager at Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi.

Last year, it hosted 200 people per day, while the iftar buffet at its Urban Kitchen restaurant recorded around 100 people daily.

Almost 70 per cent of its bookings came from the corporate sector last year, the hotel said.

But it has also raised its prices this year to Dh180 and above for iftar buffets from Dh140 last year.

“The gross operating profit levels in Abu Dhabi dropped to negative last year and it would be interesting to see how the hotels fare this year on profitability,” Mr Aboobacker said.

Gross operating profit, a performance indicator, is calculated on per room per day.

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