When to draw a line in the sand over Dubai hotel beach prices

Most of us are familiar with the term “revpar” – revenue per available room. It has become the basic financial metric for the hotel industry. Lately it has been falling in Dubai as high-rolling Russians and others have stayed away, but it’s been on the rise in Abu Dhabi.

I’d like to propose another barometer term for the hoteliers, and especially for the leading hotel and leisure group in the region, Jumeirah. How about “revpabb”, or “revenue per available beach bed”. I think Jumeirah has targeted this segment of the market for growth, to make up for the missing Muscovites.

You can see why. Jumeirah owns some of the best beachfront assets in Dubai. Golden white sands, fantastic service from the hotels to which they are attached and excellent facilities make them the brand leader in this segment of the market.

Myself and my six-year-old daughter Amira regard ourselves as experts in the field. Every Friday afternoon, weather permitting, we head off to one of the beaches on the long strip spreading northwards from Marina, and do our market research.

The basic MO is to find one we like, then keep coming back until market conditions change. For example, the beach at Royal Meridien hotel was a long-time favourite. Amira called it the “fish and chip” beach because that was what she liked most from the poolside menu.

Until somebody “improved” the menu and removed fish and chips. We packed our bags and headed off.

A couple of months ago, we found what we thought was the perfect venue. From my earliest days in Dubai I’ve always liked the beach and pool at Jumeirah Beach Hotel, but it became rather pricey.

Then some time this year, Jumeirah made us an irresistible offer: if you could produce a UAE resident card, you got a big discount. For the two of us, an afternoon on the “best beach in Dubai” (says Amira Kane) cost Dh600 for two, with a Dh200 food voucher thrown in.

We took full advantage. For the past several weeks we’ve lapped it up in the shade of the Burj Al Arab, meandering between the beautiful clean sand, the fun-packed swimming pool, and the kids’ club – an extra charge but well worth it, for me and for her. I got a couple of hours of relaxation, she got kids’ fun.

We even found our own special beach umbrella, one of those permanent wooden ones rather than just a linen and plastic shade. Some birds had made their nest in this one and we spent hours watching the mother feed her chicks, measuring their progress. Wonderful it was.

Until last week, when we arrived as usual about 1.30pm to check in. Then, the bombshell – prices had gone up that very day by 50 per cent. It would now cost Dh900 for an afternoon on the beach.

I was tempted to walk away, but saw the look of anguish on Amira’s face. “But what about the birds?” she asked, close to tears.

So we had what may turn out to be our last Friday afternoon on JBH beach, saying goodbye to the staff we had got to know, to the kids in the club that had become friends, and to the chicks of course. Amira asked if we could sneak down at night to look at them from time to time. Maybe.

Next Friday, we’re off on our market research again. We’re happy to have made a significant contribution to Jumeirah’s “revpabb” over the past couple of months, but you have to draw a line in the sand some time.


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