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Dubai may be leading the way with five-star spots and luxury brands, but the entire region is on the rise with new hotel rooms and an airline industry that's becoming the envy of the rest of the world.

Dubai is the hub for luxury hospitality within the Middle East and North Africa, and the region is poised for aggressive developments in the coming years, a senior official said.

The emirate, which is hosting the two-day inaugural Middle East Luxury Summit, has the potential to further strengthen its position in the global tourism and travel market amid considering massive investment in the hospitality sector.

“The global economic gloom had an enormous impact on certain parts of the world, but strategic planning in the Middle East has enabled the region to identify the implication of the paradigm shifts in travel and tourism,” Piers Brown, founder and event manager of Middle East Luxury Summit, told in an interview on the sidelines of the summit on Tuesday.

He said the region accounts for only six per cent of international tourism arrivals worldwide, but with airport expansions worth $104 billion scheduled throughout the Middle East, this percentage is expected to climb in the coming years.

“After a rather buoyant and optimistic 2010, the weakening of global economies in 2011 slowed international tourism, alerting renewed caution for investment opportunities. Year 2012 does not seem to have shown a further decline and future hotel development and performance appears to remain stable with the region poised for aggressive development in the coming years,” Brown said.

Referring to a recent HVS report, he said total direct contribution of travel and tourism to gross domestic production in GCC states this year is estimated to increase by 27 per cent to $44 billion this year.

He said despite the unrest in some parts of the region, the Middle East remains a key market for hospitality development due to its oil wealth, high disposable incomes, demographic growth and proven resilience to crisis.

“While the Middle East has suffered from unrest in certain destinations, cities like Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha have benefitted from redirected demand,” he said.

Elaborating, he said the development pipeline for the Middle East reflects approximately 84,000 new hotel rooms to be brought online in the next four to five years.

“The UAE will introduce the greatest number of rooms in the region with approximately 24,500 rooms due for completion within the next three to five years with Qatar expecting to see the highest year-on-year growth with 5,635 rooms,” he said, adding that the hotel market in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait are all expected to grow by more than 40 per cent per annum.

“We have winners and losers in all fields of business. In our ever-evolving competitive hospitality world we examine the Middle East’s growth compared with worldwide tourism arrivals, and clearly the Middle East remains a winner,” he said.

Luxury summit

Brown said the conference is a fresh and innovative approach to the hospitality sector as it evolves to keep pace with the needs and demands of the high net worth traveller and purchaser seeking a luxury experience within the Mena region.

“The main objective is to facilitate the sharing of information and networking within the industry, whilst identifying the challenges ahead and promoting best practice to drive the sector forward. There are approximately 100 industry professionals in attendance,” he said.

To a question about choosing Dubai for the inaugural event, he said the emirate is the hub for luxury hospitality within Mena region.

“I was surprised there wasn’t a business-to-business conference that focuses on the sector already. Dubai’s reputation for luxury hospitality and exemplary service is what many countries within the region are trying to emulate in the future, hence it’s only natural to host the inaugural event here,” he said.

In reply to a question, Brown said luxury summit will be a regular annual event in the region.

“Yes, provided there’s demand from within the industry. I look forward to hosting an annual event that delegates, sponsors, media and the whole industry can be truly proud of.”

“I’m already really looking forward to meeting with luxury hospitality brands looking to have more involvement in the planning and sponsorship of Luxury Hospitality Summit Mena 2013,” he said.

(c)2012 the Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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Photo credit: The interior of the Burj Al-Arab hotel in Dubai. David Lisbona /

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