Taj opens second Dubai hotel as Indians flock to UAE

India’s oldest hotel operator has added a second property in Dubai as the emirate attracts rising numbers of tourists from the subcontinent.

The Taj Group opened the 296-room luxury hotel in Dubai Downtown – 14 years after opening its first property in Deira.

It comes as the number of Indian passengers passing through Dubai International Airport rises steadily. In February, 809,129 passengers from India passed through the airport, representing the largest group of passengers by nationality.

“The Indian leisure market has taken off, and that’s certainly a factor but also there are more opportunities for the Indian brands now,” said John Podaras, a Dubai-based partner at the hospitality consultancy Hotel Development Resources. “Expo 2020 is also a factor, and already the Dubai machinery is gearing up for that.”

Rising salaries over the past decade and of disposable income in India have led to an increase in overseas travellers, including those from smaller cities.

The GDP per capita in India was last recorded in 2013 at US$1,165, well up from $740 in 2006.

The UAE is the single largest country for air ticket bookings for outbound travel from India with the online travel agent ClearTrip.com. “We have seen this increase over the last three to four years with the increase in air capacity to the UAE from India,” said Amit Taneja, Clear-Trip’s chief revenue officer. “From the tourism perspective, Dubai is giving Singapore tough competition.”

Dubai is the single largest market for hotel bookings on ClearTrip, followed by Singapore.

Both the Taj and Oberoi, the other grand old hotel company from India, have had mixed success with hotel projects with some earlier announced projects yet to be opened. They include a Palm Jumeirah development for the Taj, and hotels slated for Yas Island and Al Raha Beach for Oberoi.

Oberoi opened in Dubai’s Business Bay in 2013 and plans to open in Ajman this year.

The Mumbai-based property company Hiranandani Group is working on a budget hotel with Accor in Dubai’s Business Bay that is expected to open in 2017. Also based in Mumbai, Suba Group of Hotels opened its first four-star property in Deira last year to tap into the Indian business traveller market. It expects to have a property near Dubai World Central’s Al Maktoum International Airport.

Tourist numbers from India are forecast to grow to 50 million by 2020, having risen from 3.7 million in 1997 to 9.8 million in 2007, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.

Travel agencies such as Thomas Cook have started to offer package holidays from India for as little as 35,000 rupees (Dh2,056) for a five-day tour of Dubai that includes flights, hotels and sightseeing.

India was the second-largest source market for Dubai and the largest for Abu Dhabi last year.


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