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 Kathi Everden
Operators in countries that issued advisories against travel to Egypt took measures to place their clients elsewhere, with Natalie Tours from Russia, for instance, increasing flights to the UAE to cater to demand for winter sunshine.
In Abu Dhabi, guest nights in February increased by 29 per cent, occupancy rose by 16 per cent and the length of stay was extended by 10 per cent, with guest numbers from Saudi Arabia rising by 90 per cent, while arrivals from the UK increased by 29 per cent, from France by 49 per cent and from Russia by 88 per cent.
Across the board in Dubai, hoteliers enjoyed a surge in business: “As a result of recent events in the region, Al Bustan Centre & Residence saw an increase in occupancy to almost 100 per cent since the beginning of 2011,” said GM Moussa El Hayek.
“Exhibitions attracted thousands of visitors, and many tourists from
the GCC diverted their travel plans from Cairo and other cities in the region to Dubai during the mid-year holiday.”
Newcomers such as the Park Regis Kris Kin Hotel Dubai were operating at almost full house too, according to GM Scott Butcher: “It has been a boost for the hospitality sector, but the longer term is more debatable, and it will depend on how quickly the affected countries stabilise – meanwhile, Dubai gains as it is seen as a safe haven destination in the region.”
Some perceived a shadow over the Middle East as a whole, with Nick Bauer, GM of the Dusit Princess Dubai, reporting some cancellations: “These have been instigated by travel advisories as people at times can confuse the actual suffering countries with non-concerned peaceful neighbours.”
LOOKING FOR INCENTIVES
And at the annual gathering of travel professionals at ITB in Berlin in March, there was pressure for incentives to keep the travellers en route to the Middle East, no matter the destination: “Agents were indicating the need for cheaper rates and more imaginative packages in order to entice summer leisure business to the region,” said Mike Scully, MD of Seven Tides and developer of several Movenpick hotels and resorts in Dubai.
“However, most indications were that if Dubai remained competitive on both price and quality of offering, there would be no negative downturn…other than what would normally have taken place due to the present economic climate.”
For the region as a whole, positive PR and marketing is essential, according to Peter Lilley, executive director of MENATA (Middle East and North Africa Travel Association), who warned of an escalating spiral of bad publicity: “It is understandable that tour operators have had to consider cutting capacity … but even quite modest cutbacks in capacity can potentially undermine consumer confidence.”
This article was originally published in GMR May 2011.
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