May 07--Once demand-supply balances out, the hikes will stop, says DTCM official.

Despite a hike in hotel rates over the past two years, and the introduction of the 'tourism dirham' in March this year, the Director-General of Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) says fees will not continue to rise.

"Hotel prices have been on the rise of late, and the one thing that does worry us is the pricing, but once the demand and supply balances out, which is already starting to happen, these hikes will stop," Helal Almarri told during a round table meeting on day two of the Arabian Travel Market.

Assuring that the hikes have nothing to do with government orders, Almarri admitted that the high prices "are a risk", but said the department is confident in the choices being made by hotels here.

"Dubai Municipality fees have not changed. The tourism dirham is on the tourist and is only a small fee of between Dh10-Dh20 per room per night. These changes in hotel prices have come from the hotels themselves, from their yields, but I can assure you that the market will not continue going up."

He said the hotels' yield is very detailed and based on inventory, so slowly but surely they are alleviating the demand and supply issues through "savvy thinking".

Despite the hikes, the sector has continued to flourish during this two-year period, but is Dubai running the risk of pricing itself out of the tourism market and putting visitors off, ahead of the Expo 2020?

It's a small concern, but not one that will put tourists off, Almarri said.

"Are we pleased with these increases at the DTCM? On the one hand we are happy the hotels are making money, but on the other hand we feel there needs to be a clear analysis of demand and supply. This will eventually balance the prices out."

Last- minute bookings

During the meeting at the DTCM stand in Hall 3 of Dubai's International Convention and Exhibition Centre, Almarri also commented on how complaints received by neighbouring markets in regards to last minute hotel bookings had steered its focus on encouraging tourists to plan ahead.

"Many of these markets book last minute, where hotel prices can be high, so we are trying to encourage markets to book in advance because there is much less risk on that."

Almarri also reiterated the fact that the needs of tourists is a huge focus for Dubai and confirmed that it is not building any hotels specifically for the Expo, but rather for tourism as a whole in Dubai.

Another topic under discussion was the possibility of opening up visa-free travel for other nationalities into the UAE in the future.

Almarri said although the DTCM is working closely with the Ministry of Interior to ease travel access for tourists, nothing was yet set in stone.

"Today we don't have any information on such a thing happening any time soon, but what we do see is changes in regulations. There is more to come in the future with regards to visa-free travel, but right now, there has been no decision made on which countries."

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