Khalaf Al Habtoor has no doubts about UAE's return to faster economic growth. The billionaire businessman says his hotels are already feeling the lift. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Dubai: Forecasts for the UAE economy's return to growth in 2021 have "exceeded expectations", according to Khalaf Al Habtoor, founding Chairman of Al Habtoor Group (AHG), one of the largest privately-owned enterprises in the region.

“Global economic growth was already on the decline in all regions of the world in 2019, and COVID added significant pressure," said Al Habtoor, who business empire straddles real estate, hotels, automotive dealerships and more. "However, the economic recovery in the UAE has been on the upward trajectory since Q3 last year.

“We continue to see pockets of positive growth, and as a result, real GDP is forecast to hit, or exceed, 3 per cent this year.”

The IMF expects the UAE economy to grow 3.1 per cent in 2021, with the global growth outlook hinging on "how effectively economic policies deployed under high uncertainty can limit lasting damage from the crisis.” The UAE Central Bank is forecasting further growth of 3.5 per cent in 2022.

“The first quarter of 2021 has seen extensive growth in the real estate division of the Group, achieving a significant surge in the volume of sales compared to the same time before COVID,” said Al Habtoor.

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Hotels do well

“All our hotels in the UAE are performing extremely well - we have witnessed a very healthy first quarter and are expecting a great second-half," said Al Habtoor. “Our base business for the remainder of 2021 is very solid with high occupancy rates already achieved.”

In its latest report, STR showed a rebound in hotel occupancy rates in the UAE in the first quarter of 2021, particularly in Dubai, which recorded the highest occupancy rates in the world during March. Dubai-wide occupancy rates rose to more than 60 per cent in March.

“This good performance in Q1 of 2021 is only the beginning - I am expecting double-digit growth across the board in our group,” said Al Habtoor.