The pace of hotel development in the Middle East has fallen for more than a year, but companies aren't shying away from introducing new brands to the region. If it can sustain its winter travel appeal — and that's a big if — expect the development pendulum to swing in a positive direction.
Editor’s Note: Skift Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill brings readers exclusive reporting and insights into hotel deals and development, and how those trends are making an impact across the travel industry.
Companies like Accor, Wyndham, and Marriott all announced plans in recent days to beef up their presence in the Middle East. But the brand buildup has a ways to go to offset the six quarters of a hotel development decline in the region. There are currently 542 projects, or nearly 157,000 hotel rooms, in various stages of development across the Middle East, according to Lodging Econometrics. The development figure represents a 2 percent decline in active construction from before the pandemic and a 36 percent decline in the number of projects expected to begin construction in the next year. The region garnered a reputation as a vacation haven during coronavirus, as several countries like the United Arab Emirates and Jordan opened borders to international tourists while other parts of the world kept travel restrictions in place. But real estate is a long-term play, and that pop in travel demand doesn’t appear to have trickled down yet into the development pipeline. “The next few years will prove pivotal in this region,” Lodging Econometrics reports in its development overview. The report cites factors like fluctuating prices in oil, vaccine distribution, and even the new Biden administration in the White House as reasons for the development drop off. But it is important to note vaccine distribution is actually very high in the region’s top tourist destination, the UAE. As of Sunday, the country, home to cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, had the third-highest rate of vaccine distribution in the world behind Israel and the Seychelles. Additionally, Saudi Arabia continued its push last