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Valentine's sleepovers good business for hotels

Workers hang Valentine's Day decorations outside a store in Dubai. LOAY ABU HAYKEL)

By Keith J Fernandez

Dubai resident Elizabeth M knew what she would be doing tonight three weeks ago. For Valentine's Day, she chose to surprise her husband with a romantic getaway for two – at a hotel right here in the city.

"I really couldn't afford to book a holiday – neither of us has had a raise in two years. But checking into a hotel over the long weekend seemed a wonderful way to take a mini-break," she told Emirates Business.

Hotels across the country are hoping punters such as Elizabeth and her husband will boost revenue in these lean times and are rolling out promotions aimed at consumers used to several mini-breaks each year but whose pockets may not be able to stretch to holiday packages that include air tickets and dinners at Michelin-starred restaurants.

"We are targeting corporate and leisure clients based in Dubai with our Valentine's Day promotions," said Arshad Hussain, Director of Business Development at the Monarch Hotel Dubai. It is one of several, offering special deals on rooms and food and beverage. For Dh1,402 per couple per night, for example, customers get accommodation in an executive room, a three-course set dinner menu with beverages in the privacy of their room, and a buffet breakfast the next morning. The tax-inclusive deal was only bookable for the nights of February 13 and 14.

"Rather than discounting on rate we believe in offering added value to our customers. This way we maintin our RevPAR," Hussain said. RevPAR stands for Revenue Per Available Room, a metric relevant indicating the overall financial performance of a property.

He said the hotel posted occupancies of 65 per cent in 2009 over Valentine's Day but that he was expecting "at least 72 per cent" this year – albeit at a lower average rate given the competitive market scenario.

Across town at Raffles Dubai, General Manager John Pelling was expecting the long weekend to be busy. "Reservations already made are very strong, so I would be surprised with anything less than 80 per cent occupancy," he said last week, adding that the offer was an attempt to create additional awareness of the hotel's value propositions. "Sometimes the hotel is perceived as too expensive because it looks so luxurious and grand but the reality is that it is not."

Raffles's romantic weekend package was priced at Dh1,250 per room per night, inclusive of breakfast and a Romance Bath. Dinner deals, billed separately, are being offered from Dh690 for two, including half a bottle of beverage.

Other hotels have rolled out more creative offers. At the recently opened four-star Media One Hotel, for instance, a Late Night package priced at Dh800 offers a night's stay, a bottle of bubbly, 12 oysters, strawberries, a bottle of cream, chocolate body paint, spa treatments, welcome drinks, two cheese and beverage deals, late check out and a photograph.

Operations Manager Sebastien Noat said couples dining at the hotel could avail of a night's accommodation for an extra Dh240.

"We are expecting around 75 per cent occupancy but we look forward to full occupancy as people take advantage of the Dh240 room deal combined with food and beverage offerings."


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