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Boon in times of turmoil for UAE’s tourism sector

Boon in times of turmoil for UAE’s tourism sector

GMR's Kathi Everden analyses the recession relapse in the region's tourism and the slightly unexpected impact it's had on the UAE's hospitality sector this year.

May 17, 2011 3:02 by

According to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourist arrivals rose by almost seven per cent to 935 million in 2010, rallying from a four per cent decline in 2009, when the impact of the global economic crisis was at its peak.

In the Middle East, the figures were even more impressive – an increase of 14 per cent to 60 million arrivals, attributed in part to discounting by hotels and the advent of budget-friendly
tourism options.

And UNWTO predictions for 2011 were for more growth at a rate of between four and five per cent, a target that seemed achievable given the soaring visitor arrivals in the region so far.

Fast forward a few months and the picture is very different.

STR Global’s report on hotel performance for February indicated the extent of the damage to tourism in the region, demonstrating a decline of 12.6 per cent to 56.7 per cent for overall MEA hotel occupancy, although the average daily rate rose by 17.1 per cent to $188.53.

According to managing director Elizabeth Randall, the month saw the first impact of unrest across the region: “Egypt’s occupancy dropped by 78.5 per cent to a monthly average of 15.9 per cent, while in Lebanon the collapse of the national unity government has affected the market with a drop in occupancy to 39 per cent for February.”

Bahrain’s hospitality sector suffered less, with occupancy dropping 17 per cent to 61 per cent, but Randall said the full picture remained to be quantified in the ensuing months.


Move down the Gulf and the mood was very different, with the UAE enjoying booming business as a result of a healthy mix of leisure, corporate, exhibition and school holiday traffic, in addition to some incremental arrivals due to events in Egypt in particular.

According to Luc Delcomminette, VP of Arabian Adventures, overall visitor numbers to the UAE increased due to ongoing marketing efforts combined with the availability of rooms: “In the early days of the political crisis in Egypt, Arabian Adventures welcomed guests who diverted from their original

”In addition to this, the diversity of Dubai’s offerings as a destination and the quality it provides at a competitive rate are also contributing factors.”

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1 Comment

  1. Giles on May 18, 2011 4:20 pm

    If they market UAE tourism as a whole then it will pick up dramatically, people have heard about Dubai and to a lesser extent Abu Dhabi but there is much more to offer those that visit UAE.

    More education and information is needed for those that may want to visit.

    Now is the chance for the UAE to capture visitors who would otherwise go elsewhere like Egypt, if you can turn those extra visitors into repeat customers and it will have a great long-term effect.


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