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Sun 20 Apr 2008 06:11 PM

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Beyond the city limits

Hilton sales and marketing chief Guy Epsom reminds meeting planners that there is more to the UAE than Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Securing rooms for group bookings might be a challenge in the UAE, but there are plenty more accommodation options for planners that think outside of the box, according to one Dubai-based hotelier.

Massive demand for rooms in Dubai and Abu Dhabi means that planners find it hard to get accommodation for groups, but accommodation options do not stop at the city limits, explained Guy Epsom, regional director of sales and marketing, Arabian Peninsular and Indian Ocean, Hilton Hotels.

"Abu Dhabi is very busy and Dubai is absolutely full to capacity, so it is difficult to find a slot where it is possible to take a good piece of business," he told MIME.

"In Dubai our hotels are not perfect for MICE business and in Abu Dhabi we have a great hotel for MICE but limited availability."

Epsom therefore advised planners to consider other existing Hilton properties in the UAE where availability was not so limited and rates would be competitive compared to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

"We have some superb hotels in Al Ain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah that have good banqueting facilities and they are only an hour or so away from Dubai," he explained.

"There are periods in the year when the leisure market cools off and we need to fill those hotels and rates become very attractive."

By booking guests into hotels outside Dubai and Abu Dhabi, planners can benefit from very good prices and still have the option to travel reasonably short distances to reach conferences, exhibitions or the leisure options available in the city, he added.

Although the situation is not ideal, new developments in the pipeline will cater to this demand in the near future.

"Hotels are being built that are going to cater to this market; we have a Conrad coming up in Dubai that will have a very large conference facility and one in Abu Dhabi that will also have large conference facilities," he said.

New Hilton properties in Qatar and Kuwait would also have extensive facilities to cater to meetings industry delegates, he added.

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