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Tue 26 Feb 2008 11:58 AM

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A question of relationships

When will hotels realise that lasting relationships are more valuable than a one-night stand?

It seems that the hotels in the UAE have gotten a little too big for their boots.

Because of the constant demand for accommodation, hotels can afford to be choosy when allocating their rooms, often to the detriment of conference or event planners.

Few hotels in the UAE are focused on one specific industry sector - most tend to cater to a mixture of leisure and business/meetings industry travellers - which means that there is rarely provision to cater to sufficient corporations, destination management companies (DMCs) or professional congress organisers (PCOs) that want to block large numbers of rooms on a yearly basis or several years in advance.

Consequentially it is not unusual for PCOs to have to turn down business because they cannot secure the required number of rooms for the date required and do not want to risk having to pull out at the last minute because a hotel has let them down, thereby compromising their own professional reputations.

The hotels can be justified in their attitude because they know that they can rely on the constant demand from the leisure sector that keeps occupancy levels high for most of the year; with the exception of the summer months, they don't need to come up with special offers to attract meetings and conferences.

The companies that do manage to secure rooms and conference facilities several years in advance are often caught out by the increasing rates imposed by the hotels in the time between signing the contract with the client and producing the event.

However the bubble will burst when more hotels come online and the competition heats up.

As more hotels announce plans to introduce budget or business-focused brands to the region, existing properties that have ridden the crest of the UAE's wave for so long will have to rethink their strategies.

Therefore hotels must begin to work on their relationships with parties involved in the meetings industry - whether it is major corporations or the PCOs, DMCs and event management companies that book the events for them - and to understand how they can work together to grow in helping to grow business for all interested parties.

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