Inflation to staycation: UAE expatriates staying put for the summer, hotels cash in

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Amid inflation and rising living costs, UAE expatriates are planning cost-saving staycations in the country this summer, with hotels offering bumper deals to attract residents holidaying at home.

Across the emirates, many expats told Al Arabiya English they are choosing the best the country has to offer over costly flights and holidays as they look to tighten their belts.

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Dubai-based Brazilian expat Adriano Sethi, 28, told Al Arabiya English that the surge in living expenses has him worried. A spike in the prices of flight tickets to Brazil has made him reconsider his summer vacation plans.

“Brazil is my hometown, it’s really far… so the cost is almost double than when I came to Dubai one year ago. It makes me think twice before I do anything.”

Grounded for the summer

Sethi added that because of the global cost-of-living crisis, he has researched booking a staycation in the UAE rather than traveling outside the country.

“I would consider a staycation than travel to another country this summer. Actually, it’s even cheaper here, that’s why I would consider a staycation, maybe in Ras Al Khaimah or Fujairah.”

Sharing similar concerns, Dubai-based Lebanese expat Lynn Habbal, 30, said that she was starting to feel the financial pressure of rising prices and that it has also affected her summer vacation plans.

“Traveling to see my family [in Lebanon] has been my priority ever since the pandemic hit. However, the costs of today’s tickets are almost unreasonable,” she explained.

“It’s absurd to price the tickets double the amount in comparison to their usual fee. And I’m forced to do a double-take on my travel plans because of the inflation in the country I aimed to travel to.”

Habbal, an avid traveler, has had to put her travel plans on hold this summer.

“I guess we just have to face the reality of the situation that no matter where we go or stay for the summer, we have to budget double the amount we used to last year.

“To me, the best option for holiday in the coming months is to staycation here. Prices are usually affordable during the low season. Despite the extreme heat, we’re lucky that we live in a country where the hospitality sector accommodates to weather circumstances and provides alternative entertainment to us residents.”

A general view of the luxury Burj al-Arab Hotel at Jumeirah area in Dubai, UAE December 9, 2015. (File photo: Reuters)
A general view of the luxury Burj al-Arab Hotel at Jumeirah area in Dubai, UAE December 9, 2015. (File photo: Reuters)

Abu Dhabi-based Palestinian-New Zealand expat Youstina Ailabouni, 25, told Al Arabiya English that she also had to rethink long-distance travel plans, instead opting for the GCC.

“I had the option of driving to Oman or taking a flight [this summer]. If you travel on Wizz Air, it’s actually cheaper than filling up your car with gas and driving to Oman. Whereas before, this wasn’t something that anyone would have taken into consideration,” she said, stressing her concern about the hike in fuel prices..”

A UAE staycation boom

Across the UAE, the tourism industry says they are prepping for a summer boom in bookings.

Vinayak Mahtani, CEO of bnbme holiday homes, a holiday home management company in the UAE, believes inflation – coupled by lingering fears over COVID-19 and new worries over the monkeypox virus – will mean more residents stay out.

“We are expecting several families to stay behind this summer especially those that have already travelled over Christmas and Easter,” he told Al Arabiya English. “Inflation is resulting in ticket prices being extremely high over the summer and with COVID-19 and monkey pox cases striking high (across the world), people are choosing to stay back in the country.

“Also, summer rates for properties in Dubai are generally at their lowest and it is a great time to avail the best staycation deals.”

Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest tower, and luxury Burj al-Arab Hotel (L) are seen in a general view of Dubai, UAE December 9, 2015. (Reuters)
Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest tower, and luxury Burj al-Arab Hotel (L) are seen in a general view of Dubai, UAE December 9, 2015. (Reuters)

Given the hotter weather, Mahtani said residents can avail deals with properties at up to 50 percent off their peak rates.

“This is simply because the demand is lower than normal. Also, most properties come with value-add benefits which is not very often during peak months.

“Dubai over the summer is also a different experience; traffic is far less given that schools are on holidays.

“Also, fewer tourists are visiting so you have easier access to all restaurants, parks, and best tourist destinations easily. Malls have some great deals going on as well, which makes the stay even better.”

Destination UAE

Mohammed Mahmoud, general manager at InterContinental Ras Al Khaimah Resort & SPA, also told Al Arabiya English that they expected a surge in stay-at-home holidaymakers.

“There are many advantages to staying in the UAE and staycations are popular as ever among expats and locals alike,” he said. “First and foremost – staycations save greatly on travel fees.

“With the international conjuncture at its present state, air-fare and transportation costs, in general, have shot through the roof.

“UAE residents can be happy that most emirates are reachable within a few hours' drive. Post-COVID labor shortages have greatly affected large airport hubs across Europe and North America, leading to interminable queuing and an overall deteriorated airport experience, further dissuading long-haul travel.

“Secondly, staycations allow UAE residents and nationals to (re)discover the natural and eclectic beauty, culture, and heritage that the UAE has to offer.”

Tourist take photos of a mosque across the Dubai Marina, surrounded by high towers of hotels, banks and office buildings, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates December 11, 2017. (File photo: Reuters)
Tourist take photos of a mosque across the Dubai Marina, surrounded by high towers of hotels, banks and office buildings, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates December 11, 2017. (File photo: Reuters)

Anna Luisa Asistio, assistant director of marketing and communications at Jannah Hotels & Resorts, said: “From the rising inflation costs happening in the UAE, expatriates still want to travel and experience the way of living to refresh during the holidays. In consideration of the strike of inflations happening in the UAE, the spending habit staying here with residents offers will be the same spending amount of money internationally yet in different locations and adventures.”

Ali Ozbay, vice president of marketing and communications at Rixos Hotels, told Al Arabiya English that staycations grew in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Staycations quickly emerged at this point and have not lost popularity since then. I firmly believe UAE has ever-increasing options when people talk about vacations.

“More and more guests prefer to stay in the UAE and explore getaway options available here than travel outside of the country. The uncertainty of travel restrictions is still immense and keeps changing. Staying put this summer might be an excellent decision due to the steadily increasing inflation figures worldwide.”

Rohit Vig, vice president of development of StayWell Holdings, say they have seen an upsurge in the number of people opting for cost-effective staycations within the Emirate rather than flying abroad, “mostly because it's cheaper”.

“It avoids expenses like flight fees, immigration fees, and last-minute cancellations, among others. Furthermore, given the numerous COVID-19 uncertainties and restrictions in other countries, reserving a local homestay is usually the most practical alternative, especially for short stays or extended weekend breaks. Hotels nowadays offer incredible accommodation rates as well as other perks like hotel credits, full board, free room upgrades, and so on.

“In addition to the city's continuing events, hotels offer their guests a variety of exceptional attractions and entertainment options.

“Due to the harsh weather conditions, summer is traditionally a slow season for the hotel industry in the region; however, things have changed in recent years, with hotels offering great deals, appealing entertainment activities, and the city's ongoing effort to introduce unique attractions every season. As a result of this entire experience. Residents are encouraged to spend their long weekends in hotels as a tranquil escape.”

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