Destinations like Abu Dhabi (pictured) will be the focus of a new Skift newsletter covering the travel industry in the Middle East.

Introducing a Middle East Newsletter for the World’s Hottest Region in Travel

Skift Take

The Middle East is evolving into one of the most interesting and dynamic stories in the global travel industry. That's why you don't want to miss out. Sign up today for our newly launched newsletter, Middle East Travel Roundup, and gain an edge with our insights from this critical region of the world.

Series: Middle East Travel Roundup

Middle East Travel Roundup

Get the latest news from the Middle East in one easy-to-digest newsletter.

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The Middle East has long sat at the center of how the world connects with itself, but the region is evolving at record speed beyond just being a convenient hub into one of the most interesting and dynamic stories in the global travel industry.

That’s why Skift is hosting its first Skift Global Forum East December 13-15 in Dubai, and why today we are announcing the launch of a Middle East-specific newsletter giving you the essential news across all of travel’s sectors. What you will receive in your inbox, weekly at first, and then daily, will be easy digestible items on the the latest news, from hotel developments, to online travel innovations, to airline expansion news, not to mention who are the leaders behind all this growth and investment.

These are insights you don’t want to miss.

Here’s out very first issue, compiled by our Asia/Middle East Editor Peden Doma Bhutia.

Middle East Travel Roundup – for November 2, 2022
Presented by: Skift
Peden Doma Bhutia, Editor
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Today’s Report

The FIFA World Cup slated to be held in Qatar this month promises a boom in business for hotels in the region. Little wonder then that the Middle East and Africa was the only region in the world to record an increase in overall hotel pipeline activity at the end of the third quarter, according to hotel data giant STR. With most of the region’s pipeline activity focused in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia (39,070) and UAE (32,272) lead in construction activity.

In what has been dubbed as a post-World Cup boom, Qatar is poised to welcome 6.24 million tourists by 2028 with spending on the sector reaching $28 billion, according to a report released by the Qatar Chamber on Sunday. The report, “Qatar Economic and Commercial Activities 2022,” noted that tourism spending would increase at 9.1 percent annually until 2028. The report further stated that authorities have been working to create a system to quicken the licensing procedure for tourism businesses, to attract more investments into the country. Qatar anticipates more than 1.5 million football fans to visit the country during the World Cup. The country also scrapped the requirement of a pre-arrival negative polymerase chain reaction test from Tuesday, just in time for the FIFA World Cup.

Emirates has started its massive two-year retrofit program with work starting on the first of 120 aircraft earmarked for a full cabin interior upgrade and the installation of the airline’s latest premium economy seats. The ambitious project will witness a multi-billion-dollar investment where 67 A380s and 53 777s will undergo a facelift. By April 2025, when the project is completed, nearly 4,000 premium economy seats will be installed, while 728 first class suites will be refurbished and over 5,000 business class seats would be upgraded. Emirates has announced plans to introduce premium economy service on its routes to New York JFK, San Francisco, Melbourne, Auckland and Singapore, by March 2023. Speaking at the Ultratravel Forum in London on Monday, Tim Clark, president of Emirates, said that premium economy has witnessed a great response from passengers and has been full since its launch. He also noted that rather than move down from business to premium economy, passengers have been trading up to premium economy from economy.

Dubai-based Sunset Hospitality Group has secured a $35 million funding from Goldman Sachs Asset Management. The group that is currently present across nine countries owns and operates hospitality lifestyle brands, including METT Hotels & Resorts, Aura, Azure Beach, SushiSamba, Isola, Black Tap, L’amo, Ammos and Drift Beach. The funding will support the company’s international expansion plans, the company said in a press statement. The company is actively looking at acquisition opportunities around the world and the funding would be fundamental to this new phase, Antonio Gonzalez, CEO of Sunset Hospitality Group, said. Summer 2023 will see the opening of the flagship property METT Hotel & Beach Resort, in Marbella, Spain. The company is also exploring additional opportunities within the Mediterranean region, UK, U.S. and Asia. “The investment is a sign of confidence in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates as a hub of entrepreneurship and a growing centre for hospitality,” said Gonzalez.

Saudi Arabia’s The Tourism Development Fund has sealed a $172 million agreement with Dana Bay Tourism Company to develop a mixed-use beach resort project in the kingdom’s Eastern Province. The resort would feature luxurious villas managed by IHG, represented by the InterContinental brand. Spread over a 2.8 million sq m area, the project includes attractions such as a water park and a beach resort that will stretch along a beach area of 14 km, enhancing the region’s urban growth in line with Vision 2030, a statement from the Saudi Press Agency stated. The deal would help to translate the Tourism Development Fund’s efforts to activate tourism destinations in the kingdom, by strengthening support programs and diversifying financing solutions, its CEO Qusai Abdullah Al Fakhri said.

As it gets set to host the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (Cop27) climate summit this week, Egypt’s resort town of Sharm al Sheikh has now been called the first environmentally friendly city in the Middle East. Announcing this, Khaled Fouda, South Sinai governor, said the Green Zone project in Sharm el-Sheikh was finally completed, “31 projects have been implemented to transform Sharm el-Sheikh into the first green tourist city in Egypt and the Middle East.” Ahead of the summit, Egypt’s tourism minister had given Sharm El Sheikh hotels and tourist establishments a six-month deadline to obtain green certification. The United Nations Development Programme has signed an agreement to support Egypt with $6.2 million fund to turn Sharm El-Sheikh into a green city.

With close to 25,000 rooms under management, Accor is projected to be United Arab Emirates’ largest hotel room operator by 2030, according to property consultant Knight Frank. The group would also be enjoying this position in Saudi Arabia. In its latest earnings call, Accor had stated that the revenue per available room (RevPAR) in the third quarter in the India Middle East and Africa region had gone up 68 percent above 2019. United Arab Emirates was 17 percent up in the third quarter and Accor projected that the performance would continue to improve in the fourth quarter following the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Turkey welcomed a total of 40.25 million visitors in the first nine months of the year as foreign tourists arrival between January and September rose by 98 percent, compared to 2021. The country’s tourism revenues in the third quarter leaped 27 percent from a year earlier to $17.95 billion, according to data from the Turkish Statistical Institute. Turkish expats accounted for 14.3 percent of the revenue. Turkey has revised its year-end target for foreign tourist arrivals to 47 million and tourism revenues to $37 billion.

United Arab Emirates-based developer Marjan will be debuting in Ras Al Khaimah with the opening of the lifestyle beach resort Rove Al Marjan in 2024. Marjan announced that construction has commenced for the 441-key beach resort that is said to offer “fuss-free and uplifting experiences for the value-conscious new generation of leisure travelers.” Calling Ras Al Khaimah one of the region’s fastest-growing tourist destinations, Abdulla Al Abdouli, CEO of Marjan said, “There is an opportunity to broaden the horizon of the emirate’s lifestyle hotel market and cater to the growing segment of value-conscious travellers.”

Kuwait-based low cost-carrier Jazeera Airways plans to receive up to $2 billion from commercial banks to fund 70 percent of a deal it has with Airbus for 28 A320neo airliners, its chairman told Reuters on Monday. The airline’s 2021 orderbook with Airbus of 20 A320neos and 8 A321neos is valued at $3.4 billion. Last month, the airline took delivery of its tenth and eleventh A320neo aircraft from Airbus, bringing the airline’s fleet to a total of 19 aircraft from 7 in 2018. Jazeera became the first airline in the Middle East to operate the A320neo. The airline plans to expand further into central Asia and Saudi Arabia, a Bloomberg report noted. The airline is already one of the largest foreign airlines in Saudi Arabia in terms of frequencies.

Set to launch its travel superapp next year, United Arab Emirates-based online travel agency Musafir.com will be opening its Technology and Innovation Centre in the Indian city of Pune. The company also set up a centre in UAE this year. The centres allow the company to accelerate its digital transformation and expansion in multiple markets, said Sachin Gadoya, co-Founder and CEO of Musafir.com. The setting up of the centres is in line with Musafir.com’s strategy of leveraging technology to drive its growth. “It will act as a catalyst for developing cutting-edge travel tech solutions that redefine customer experience, such as the travel superapp, due to launch next year,” read a stamen from the company. In a bid to leverage the travel demand coming in to Qatar, Musafir.com also set up a new office in Doha.

Air Arabia Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates capital’s first low-cost carrier, marked the inauguration of its flight to Kuwait on Monday. The airline also announced the launch of its new route from Abu Dhabi to Beirut in Lebanon on Sunday. With the addition of the route to Kuwait, Air Arabia Abu Dhabi now operates 28 routes to Lebanon, Egypt, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, India, Bangladesh, Turkey, Nepal, Sudan, Pakistan, Oman, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Georgia.

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Photo credit: Destinations like Abu Dhabi (pictured) will be the focus of a new Skift newsletter covering the travel industry in the Middle East. Mathias Apitz (München) / VisualHunt

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