New Year parties pulled as token of solidarity with victims in Gaza
A group of Dubai’s F&B heads explain how their outlets were impacted by the New Year’s Eve celebration ban
New Year’s Eve has always been one of the busiest nights of the year for Dubai’s hotel-based bars and restaurants, as package deals entice tourists from around the globe.
But this year, outlets faced the challenge of reworking their plans at the last minute, after His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, issued an order cancelling celebrations as a show of solidarity with victims of the violence in Gaza.
The ban was announced to Dubai via state news agency WAM on the morning of December 30. Jordan and Egypt followed suit, calling off numerous planned celebrations.
Politically, the message was a strong one of respect and solidarity with the Palestinians’ plight; but making this statement did come at a price for some of the region’s outlets.
“We had to cancel the celebration on our Dusk Terrace, although other outlets remained open with their normal operations,” said Radisson SAS Dubai Media City operations manager Marco Aveta.
“There were definitely financial repercussions due to the cancellation of the event and cancelled bookings, and at the same time we had to cancel some services that we ourselves had booked for this event.”
Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai director of communications Neil Rumbaoa said the hotel’s decision to focus its New Year efforts on providing special restaurant promotions rather than holding a party had worked in its favour.
“We did close our rooftop bar iKandy because of the decree,” he said. “Happily, patrons could just ‘relocate’ to our other bar, inside the hotel.”
Some outlets actually saw an increase in business following the announcement, according to InterContinental Hotels Group Dubai Festival City executive chef Geoff Haviland.
“We did have a large party planned for our outdoor venue, where guests could watch the fireworks; in the end we simply had to change the venue to our ballroom. Of course the absence of a countdown to 2009 had an impact on the atmosphere and ambience, as the guests could not celebrate the New Year with their usual revelry,” conceded Haviland.
“But with the cancellation and closure of outdoor events and nightclubs, we had an influx of last-minute bookings for our restaurants, so by mid-afternoon we were completely booked out!”
Customer reactions to the announcement varied, according to Caterer’s sources.
“Our western guests understood the rationale behind the decision and were sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians, but they were nevertheless disappointed,” said InterContinental’s Haviland.
Radisson’s Aveta added although there were “no major challenges” on the night, many guests cancelled their bookings, and said he felt there was “some confusion” regarding what the ban actually covered.
Ultimately, it seems that Dubai hotels interpreted the ban as referring to large, outdoor parties and live music — and they carefully followed that prohibition.
“As the decree was an order straight from His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai fully supported it,” said Shangri-La’s Rumbaoa.
However several properties said the cancellation came at too short notice.
“Of course, I respect the decision to ban outdoor entertainment, but I think it would have been much easier for us to manage if we had been notified earlier and it was confirmed,” said InterContinental’s Haviland.