Dubai’s Open-City Policy Saw Hotel Bookings Surge in December
The Dubai Mall, the Address Dubai Mall hotel, and Dubai fountain are seen at night in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photographer: Gabriela Maj/Bloomberg)

Dubai’s Open-City Policy Saw Hotel Bookings Surge in December

Occupancy at Dubai’s hotels surged in December and neared pre-pandemic levels as travelers flocked to the emirate to escape coronavirus lockdowns at home.

Hotels were 71% full last month -- the highest figure since February -- research firm STR said, citing preliminary data. Dubai’s hotel occupancy, for years one of the highest in the world, slumped to 23% in part of 2020 from about 80%.

Dubai attracts about 16 million tourists annually and its hotels were initially among the worst-hit by travel restrictions introduced to keep the pandemic in check.

Later in 2020, the government established a travel corridor with the U.K., which brought scores of holidaymakers to the Persian Gulf city. Tourism, key to Dubai’s economy, peaks during the northern hemisphere’s winter, with travelers enticed by Dubai’s beaches and sunny weather.

The opening up has come at a cost. Infections surged in the United Arab Emirates -- of which Dubai is one of seven sheikdoms -- from late December.

Britain removed the country from its travel corridor on Monday. Now, people returning to the U.K. from the UAE have to self-isolate for 10 days.

New cases in the UAE averaged 1,208 in November and spiked to a record 2,998 on Jan. 9.

Average daily rates in Dubai’s hotels were 608.92 dirhams ($165.78) in December, about 9.1% below levels from a year earlier, STR said. Revenue per available room, a measure of profitability, was 432.34 dirhams, down 18.2%.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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