Chris Hartley, CEO, Global Hotel Alliance Image Credit: Supplied

The living local trend is gaining strong momentum in the UAE as residents explore the wide range of exceptional luxury travel opportunities close to home, according to new data by Global Hotel Alliance (GHA), operator of the world’s largest loyalty programme for independent hotel brands, GHA DISCOVERY, featuring more than 500 hotels across 35 brands in 85 countries.

Data on summer travel behaviours from GHA DISCOVERY members based in the UAE, where GHA is headquartered, reveals that 92 per cent took a staycation from June to September 2021, compared to just 68 per cent during the same period in 2019.

Keen to make the most of GHA’s vast UAE portfolio, which includes 23 properties across seven brands – Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas, Avani Hotels & Resorts, JA Resorts and Hotels, Kempinski Hotels, Mysk Hotels, Nikki Beach Hotels & Resorts and Oaks Hotels, Resorts & Suites – members took longer local breaks too, with the average length of stay up 24 per cent in 2021 versus 2019.

Bigger picture data reveals the Middle East and North Africa as the third-largest staycation market globally this summer, with 75 per cent of GHA DISCOVERY member stays being domestic from June to September 2021 compared to 44 per cent in the same four months in 2019. The largest staycation region was Asia, with domestic stays jumping to 91 per cent during the four-month period in 2021 versus 52 per cent in 2019, followed by Europe with 87 per cent versus 68 per cent, respectively.

GHA DISCOVERY members demonstrated an overwhelming desire to live local, with domestic hotel visits accounting for 88 per cent of all stays globally in 2021. When they did venture overseas, the UAE proved immensely popular. Within a six-hour flying time of both the UK and Germany, it was one of the top five destinations visited by GHA DISCOVERY members from both countries this summer.

With member data confirming the staycation trend’s prominence and a separate GHA survey revealing members want to get away more often and gain exclusive access to places and experiences, GHA is preparing to enter its next phase of evolution, expanding its portfolio of properties and significantly enhancing the loyalty programme they all share.

Set to launch at the end of the year, the redesigned GHA DISCOVERY programme will encompass a wide range of features that meet the needs of today’s travellers, such as a new easy-to-use and transparent digital rewards currency and expanded tier structure, as well as more ways to earn rewards and to enjoy hotel amenities and experiences without a stay.

GHA DISCOVERY will also expand to become one of the 10 largest loyalty programmes in the hospitality sector when NH Hotel Group joins GHA in early 2022, offering members the choice of 360 additional hotels in 30 countries across three brands – NH Hotels, NH Collection and nhow – and growing the GHA portfolio to more than 800 properties worldwide.

“In 2021, consumers are embracing opportunities to live life to the fullest, exploring new destinations that are closer to home, revisiting old favourites, and demanding more in-hotel experiences whether they are staying overnight or taking a quick ‘daycation’. This is nowhere more evident than in the UAE, where residents are making the most of the outstanding hospitality and destination experiences on their doorstep, as our summer 2021 data clearly reveals,” said GHA CEO, Chris Hartley.

“We expect this trend to accelerate, buoyed by our hotels hosting Expo 2020 Dubai visitors, and in tandem with this staycation movement, GHA is evolving to meet members’ lifestyle needs, offering a greater choice of hotels locally and overseas and reimagining GHA DISCOVERY to offer more recognition, generous rewards and VIP access to hotel facilities with or without a stay.”

Members based in the UAE and Hong Kong spent 92 per cent of trips at home this summer compared to 68 per cent and 25 per cent respectively in 2019, and in the US, 91 per cent stayed domestic compared to 90 per cent two years prior.

GHA DISCOVERY members who travelled overseas showed a tendency to stay closer to home. For instance, the top five countries for German members travelling internationally were Austria, Norway, the UAE, Czech Republic and Croatia.

The UK member top-five international destinations this summer were Malta, the UAE, Norway, Jordan and Ireland, reflecting the strict travel restrictions imposed on travellers returning to the UK, as well as a preference to fly to shorter haul destinations.