New ‘staycation’ hope for hotels

BAHRAIN has seen a slight rise in domestic hotel occupancies but mostly at properties offering special ‘staycation deals’ and those boasting beach facilities and seafronts, according to an expert.

The hotel and hospitality industry has been one of the worst-hit industries of the global coronavirus pandemic.

In Bahrain, the impact was felt by early March with the closure of the island’s three main entry ways for normal travel – Bahrain International Airport, King Fahad Causeway and the kingdom’s port – as part of the battle to contain the spread of Covid-19.

“Hotels had no other option but to co-operate with all the procedures to limit the pandemic in a short period of time, making it one of the most difficult situations for the hospitality industry in the last 30 years,” said H&J The Experts In Hospitality and Spa chief executive Hameed Al Halwachi.

“Most of the hotels at this stage are trying to concentrate on domestic visitors who want to get away from home and stay at a hotel, maybe for a weekend or more.

“The current occupancy is between five and eight per cent and only some of the hotels possibly reach 15pc over the weekends.”

A growing interest in domestic hotel stays has been confirmed by two hotel industry leaders in the kingdom, the Gulf Hotel Group and the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay.

“We typically see an increase in staycation guests during school holidays and the summer time,” said Gulf Hotel Bahrain area general manager Fares Yactine.

He added that although the hotel had seen a significant drop on weekly arrivals due to the current situation, some of the group’s hotels had benefited from the staycation trend.

“This year will, of course, generate greater interest as many families who typically leave the island during the summer will be staying and looking for fun activities or exciting staycation ideas,” he added.

The hotel, which typically has seasonal offers throughout the year, has created a ‘Stay 3 Nights, Pay for 2’ promotion, starting from BD60 per night, and soon expects to offer ‘more exciting packages’ when restaurants and recreational facilities are finally allowed to reopen with safety measures in place.

A Four Seasons spokeswoman revealed that the hotel had seen an increase in the number of staycation guests arriving with a ‘strong and healthy demand’, particularly at weekends.

“Historically we have always seen a demand for staycation visits from residents looking to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries or simply to enjoy our private beach and kid’s facilities.”

She added that a newly-introduced 25pc discount on room rates, starting from BD87+++ for two persons, as part of a staycation offer, was proving popular.

Mr Halwachi believes staycations will take off further when hotels are able to reopen facilities such as restaurants, gyms, swimming pools and spas. Their current closure is “really not encouraging for many local families”.

He said most hotel operators had tried to control costs by coming to an agreement with their owners, especially if the property was on a lease or sublease, while large numbers of staff and management had taken ‘long local vacations’ until business picks up.

“The staycation trend will continue until operations are back to normal,” he said, adding that the hospitality industry was looking at one year at least for business to ‘come back to semi-normal’, unless the government becomes even more active in attracting international meetings and conventions to the kingdom.

Mr Halwachi, who is also the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry hospitality sector board member, said the BCCI continues to work hard to help the sector.




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