Dubai: The UAE is leading the expansion of the hospitality market in the Middle East and Africa region, with nearly 100 hotel projects now under construction.

Market research firm STR said on Tuesday that there are currently 99 hotels being built in the UAE, the highest in the region.

The ongoing projects represent 17 per cent of the 556 properties in the Middle East that are either under construction or in the final and planning stages.

Once completed, these hotels will boost the country’s supply by another 28,898 rooms. This year alone, around 16,000 hotel keys are expected to be handed over.

As the country seeks to diversify its revenues away from oil, the UAE’s hospitality and leisure market has been on a rapid expansion mode, with several resorts, hotels and themed parks opening recently. The hotel market alone witnessed the delivery of 8,000 rooms in Dubai and Abu Dhabi last year, bringing the total stock to more than 100,000 rooms.

Analysts said the UAE’s hotel supply will continue to expand as the Expo 2020 draws closer.

According to JLL, approximately 7,000 rooms were completed in Dubai in 2016,  with a further 14,000 rooms scheduled for turnover this year.

The last quarter saw the delivery of Jumeirah Al Naseem with 430 rooms, the Premier Inn Ibn Battuta with 372 rooms and Nikki Beach Resort with 117 keys. Other major completions in Dubai in 2016 were W Al Habtoor in Al Habtoor City, the Four Seasons DIFC and the Hilton Garden Inn Dubai at Mall of the Emirates.

In Abu Dhabi, 1,000 hotel rooms were handed over, with 2,000 more expected to be delivered this year.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, other countries like Saudi Arabia are also fast catching up. The world’s largest petroleum producer oversees 85 ongoing hotel projects that will offer 36,742 rooms. Also on expansion mode is Qatar, where 34 hotels are currently under construction that will deliver 8,462 rooms.

Egypt is another market to reckon with, where 14 ongoing hotel projects are expected to deliver 5,734.

STR’s January 2017 Pipeline Report shows that across the Middle East, the number of hotel rooms under contract increased by 5.1 per cent year-over-year to 159,581 rooms in 556 hotel projects. Those that are in the construction phase are 269 hotels with 85,827 rooms, a 6.8 per cent increase in year-over-year comparisons.