ABU DHABI has so far escaped the chronic shortage of visitors which has thrown hotels in neighbouring Emirates into a constant state of fierce competition.
Expansion of mainly oil-related development has ensured a steady flow of visitors to the city and, as the UAE capital, it has received a number of state and official visits — another factor boosting business for hoteliers. During the recent week-long Gulf Co-operation Council meeting there was not a room to be found in the capital.
The Abu Dhabi National Hotels Company is behind most of the big hotels in the city — the Meridien, Sheraton, Hilton, Ramada and Inter-Continental — and although managers run their hotels independently, there is a degree of co-operation and co-ordina¬tion of hotel activities.
The Merf.dien Hotel’s development is typical of the progress which Abu Dhabi hotels are having this year. General manager Manfred Haeger commented: “We had forecast an average occupancy of 70 per cent for this year and our senior executives were doubtful that we would be able to reach that figure. “Latest figures put it at 82 per cent, which is 16 per cent up on comparable figures for last year. During May this year our occupancy was up 52 per cent on the same month last year.
“Our executives were amazed that we had managed to reach such impressive figures.”
Mr Haeger was unwilling to forecast how long this situation would last, but said he was hoping for a reasonably constant occupancy of about 80 per cent.
“The new Inter-Continental hotel has still to establish itself, but once it gains ground it will start to take a bigger share of the business here.”
The big five hotels in Abu Dhabi are shortly to get together to plan enter¬tainment programmes for the rest of the year.
Mr Haeger said: “We want to ensure that we don’t have a clash of shows. However, at our hotel we are more interested in improving guest facilities than in arranging international cabaret acts.
“Our guests’ satisfaction is more important, and this is what will ensure continued business.”
The Meridien has four airline crews staying at the hotel, which Mr Haeger said accounted for 25 or 30 per cent of the occupancy. “This is a very good base to work from,” he said.
Hotel sales manager Mohammed Loutfi added: “Our hotel is also being used a lot by local people, which is a good sign.”
The prestigious new 451-room Abu Dhabi Inter-Continental hotel benefited greatly from the recent spate of conferences — particularly the Gulf Co-operation Council meeting which was held in the hotel.
Sales manager Ahmed Ramdan said: “Our facilities and closeness to the city make it an ideal place to hold such a conference, and with so many suites we can cope with a large number of VIP guests.”
He said: “I was amazed and very pleased to see how impressed our VIP guests were with the hotel. It seems likely we will continue to have a good share of the conferences and govern¬ment meetings which are likely to take place in Abu Dhabi.
“We are also trying to promote package tours at the hotel from other Gulf countries to boost our occupancy in between the conference and meeting programme.”
At the independently-owned Centre Hotel, part of the Minhall Group which also has an hotel in Riyadh, general manager Alain Bache was confident that the hotel boom would last at least until the end of this year.
He said: “A year ago we had an hotel which was half full, and we had forecast an average occupancy of 70 per cent this year.
“Business picked up towards the end of last year and a busy spell was regar¬ded as temporary. But business has continued to improve and we now have an average occupancy of 90 per cent.” Mr Bache added: “Abu Dhabi’s oil revenue has increased steadily and that will ensure continued growth of business in the Emirates. That in turn will boost hotel business.
“The increase in important conferences and government meetings means an increase in the number of hotel rooms let, and we were also full during the recent Co-operation Council meeting. But these meetings also mean that a number of other guests will not be able to come to Abu Dhabi during these times. Hopefully this is something which will average out.”
The increase in business has brought price rises at the Centre Hotel, but Mr Bache said they had been pegged at 10 per cent.
“Last year there was a brake on the prices, but this is a normal and accepted increase in the present environment.”