Russians return to Dubai hotels as rouble rebounds
Russian holidaymakers are returning to Dubai hotels as the rebounding rouble boosts their purchasing power. Travellers from Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) are making a comeback, Dubai hoteliers say. And this is helping to increase occupancy in properties across the emirate over the holiday season. The rouble has gained 19 per cent against the US dollar since January, making it the world’s best-performing currency so far this year. The five-star Amwaj Rotana on The Walk, Jumeirah Beach Residence, has reported a 15 to 20 per cent increase in the number of guests from Russia and CIS states during this year’s Christmas and New Year season compared with last year. "This is a development that we have seen in the last two to three months," said Jasmine Arika, a spokeswoman at the hotel. "JBR is a popular destination during the New Year due to the fireworks, and the location helps." Currency fluctuations had contributed to a 20 per cent decline in the number of visitors from Russia to Dubai in January. The numbers started to recover from July, coinciding with a stabilisation of the currency. During the first 10 months of the year, the number of tourists from Russia to Dubai increased by 8 per cent to 177,000 compared with the same period last year, according to the latest data from Dubai Tourism. The luxury hotel Atlantis, The Palm also reported an increase in the number of guests from Russian-speaking countries compared with last year. "We see a lot of last-minute business coming from Russia and CIS and that helps the pace to be higher than last year," said Ravini Perera, a spokeswoman at Atlantis, The Palm. "[There is] good traction from the UK and France as well." At the all-inclusive Rixos The Palm, the number of guests from Russia and CIS has increased by about 1 per cent this year compared with last year, after a drop during the early half of the year. In Abu Dhabi, Beach Rotana has also recorded a gradual return of guests from Russia, CIS and Eastern Europe during the holiday season, as the rouble stabilises, said Mathieu van Alphen, the general manager at Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi. Guests from Russia, CIS and Eastern Europe with long stays and high-spending power have been among the top source markets for UAE hotels, especially those along the beach. The plunge in the price of oil since mid-2014 hit the Russian economy hard, triggering an immediate decline in the tourism sector. Ras Al Khaimah, traditionally a strong market for Russian tourism, was also hit hard by the drop off in visitors from the country. In October, Ras Al Khaimah started two weekly charter flights from Poland to help offset the drop in Russian tourists. Operated by Enter Air, the flights were added by German tour operator TUI. "Polish visitor numbers to Ras Al Khaimah have increased by 157 per cent year-to-date," Haitham Mattar, the chief executive of the RAK Tourism Development Authority, said in October. In September, ratings agency S&P Global revised its forecast for the Russian economy to stable from negative as it projected an end next year for the country’s longest recession in two decades, which started last year.