Dubai: Dubai’s hotel sector will likely add another 14,845 rooms in 2023, and will be instantly welcomed by the sustained high visitor demand the city has been recording. Even the upcoming summer months is unlikely to see a significant drop, based on booking enquiries, industry sources say.
The additional rooms will merge into the 148,450 hotel rooms that Dubai already hosts. Atlantis The Royal and the newly refurbished Bab Al Shams Desert Resort are among the hotels that have already had a significant impact this year.
The Arabian Travel Market early May will bring trends in the UAE and Gulf’s hospitality sector into greater focus, with multiple projects getting off the ground.
“The mega projects in Saudi Arabia is putting a spotlight on the Middle East as an attractive region for travel and investment,” said Chris Hartley, CEO of Global Hotel Alliance, a network of hospitality brands that has a sizeable presence in the UAE. “Saudi Arabia also announced its latest airline Riyadh Air, creating another hub for travel in the region.
“Dubai may not be the central focus at the moment, but it will be back in the forefront with new attractions opening. Infrastructure projects are also being developed to support tourism growth.
“The region is taking positive steps to address infrastructure issues and make it easier for people and companies to work and set up in the area.”
Based on projections, Dubai is expected to provide 76 per cent of the 48,000 new rooms that should be ready for guests to the UAE by 2030. There is also lots happening in Ras Al Khaimah.
“The Wynn project in Ras Al Khaimah is garnering much attention,” said Hartley. “Then you have the large openings such as the Hilton and Marriott properties. One of our own projects, located on the West Palm Crescent, is an example of these sizeable developments.”
The GHA represents a collection of 40 brands with 800 hotels in more than 100 countries and serving more than 20 million members through its loyalty program. The brands include Anantara, Avani, JA Resorts, Kempinski, Mysk, NH Hotels, Nikki Beach, and Viceroy.
Staycations vs international travel
GHA’s UAE members spent $10 million (Dh 36.7 million) on hotels during the first quarter of 2023, of which 58 per cent was at its properties in the UAE.
“These numbers are typical for Q1,” said Hartley. “It would change in Q2 as people begin to travel overseas. These numbers also demonstrate the growing (spending) power of UAE consumers when it comes to staycations.”
The Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara, Mysk al Badayer Retreat in Sharjah, Anantara on the Palm, and Nikki Beach Resort and Spa Dubai drew a sizeable staycation demand, especially during Q1-23. In terms of international travel, UAE was the second-most popular destination for GHA members after Thailand.
Based on GHA member preferences, those from the US, UK, Russia and France predominantly represent the international travellers, whereas Spanish and UAE residents focus on domestic stays. China members too are increasingly heading overseas this year and making a strong return after 3 years.
Chris Hartley said: "While domestic business travel in the US has pretty much recovered, international travel is still languishing at 70 per cent.
"While tech layoffs create some softening, it doesn't directly affect business travel as conventions and meetings are still in the pipeline. Q1-23 was a solid quarter for business travel in the UAE with events such as Gulf Food. I see the rest of the year is strong regarding business travel and even stronger regarding meetings."
With the expected rise in Chinese business travellers, there could soon be a full recovery as far as UAE is concerned, added Hartley.
"While people were willing to splurge on travel after a long period of confinement, this trend is likely to diminish over time. Competitive markets like Dubai, where new hotels keep opening, are susceptible to fluctuating prices.
"Consumers seek value for money and always looking for deals. Therefore, hotels must offer experiences and products at a reasonable price.”