Skift Take

Much is riding on the success of the Dubai Expo — not just for the Emirati. The Expo is undoubtedly the largest tourism-oriented event since the start of the pandemic. Many lessons will be learned from how the city state handles the coming months.

On October 1, the World Expo started in Dubai, in what is likely the largest tourism-oriented event since the start of the pandemic. The event, which originally was set to take place at the end of 2020, was delayed due to the Covid pandemic and will now run from October 1 until March 31, 2022. 

World Expos are held every five years, and in terms of magnitude are compared to Olympic Games. The impact on host cities can be huge, especially in terms of tourism, construction and real estate, and investments. It is predicted that the Expo can provide a $33 billion boost to UAE’s economy over 20 years, with $6 billion coming directly from spending on hotels and business services during the six months the Expo is running.

But this was before Covid hit, which might have downgraded some expectations. Nevertheless, the organizers are still aiming for 25 million visitors during the six month exhibition. In the Skift Recovery Index: September 2021 Highlights report we analyze the tourism performance and prospects for Dubai. Below is a short excerpt.

Dubai Hopes Expo Will Rejuvenate Travel

The UAE has shown great improvement over the last couple of months in the Skift Recovery Index, with travel performance hitting 77 percent of pre-pandemic levels in September, a jump of 8 percentage points compared to last month.    

This improvement of travel’s performance goes hand-in-hand with a strong decrease in Covid cases in the country. Daily new cases are currently at the lowest level since August 2020, having shown a consistent downward trend since June. As of the end of September 2021, 82 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, one of the highest rates globally. 

The question is of course what the coming months will bring. We have asked a number of our data partners to provide forward looking data for the UAE, or Dubai specifically if available, to examine the strength of its travel market as it sets off on an important six months.   

According to data from revenue management system Duetto, Dubai hotels have seen a strong uptick in hotel bookings for the period of the Expo, but as with search trends, this has only recently started to pick up. Due to uncertainty about border openings and travel restrictions, we have seen much shorter booking windows during the pandemic, and this data confirms that this is still the case, even in the case of a major event like the Expo.

What is interesting, though, is that this uptick in demand is finally allowing hotels to increase their Average Daily Room Rates. Data from RateGain’s new Demand.AI platform shows that hotels have been able to increase prices considerably for the rest of the year. While the average room rate was AED312 on the first day of October 2020, this was AED468 (+50 percent) on the same day in 2021. And prices for the remainder of 2021 remain consistently over 50% higher than in 2020. 

In the full report we further analyse the performance of the vacation rental and flight segments, using data from Beyond, Transparent, OAG, and Skyscanner.    

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Skift Research’s latest report, discussing the September 2021 Highlights from the Skift Recovery Index is now available to our subscribers, containing more insights into the recovery of specific countries and sectors.

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Tags: dubai, dubai expo 2020, skift recovery index, skift research, uae, united arab emirates

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