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Destinations in the Middle East are not just turning to tourism in an effort to diversify their national economies but positioning themselves to compete on a larger scale globally.

Series: Middle East Travel Roundup

Middle East Travel Roundup

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In a bid to boost tourism’s contribution to the national gross domestic product to $122 billion a year by 2031, the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, launched the UAE Tourism Strategy 2031 on Friday. Eyeing an annual increase of $7.4 billion, the tourism startegy aims to attract new investments of $27.2 billion to the tourism sector in the country, and attract 40 million hotel guests in 2031. The strategy includes 25 initiatives and policies to support the development of the tourism sector in the country, according to the government media office. With the return of tourists, the United Arab Emirates’ tourism revenues surpassed $5 billion in the first half of this year.

Macro headwinds notwithstanding, airlines based in the Middle East and Africa region would return to profit by the end of the year as demand outstrips capacity, Kamil Al-Awadhi, International Air Transport Association’s regional chief said during a conversation with The National. Reporting its earnings for the first half of the fiscal year, Dubai state carrier Emirates Airline reported a net profit of $1.08 billion for the period ending September 30, compared to a loss of $1.6 billion for the same period last year. The shift in capacity from cargo to passenger operations, saw the airline carry 20 million passengers between April 1 and September 30, up 228 percent from the same period last year. Air Arabia, the region’s largest low-cost carrier, also reported solid operational and financial performance for the third quarter ending September 30. Air Arabia reported a net profit of $113 million for the three months ending September 30; an increase of 99 percent compared to $57 million registered in the corresponding third quarter of 2021.

As Oman looks to expand visibility across regional source markets, the destination has signed a partnership agreement with Saudi Arabia-based Almosafer to boost leisure tourism. Under the partnership, Almosafer’s consumer business will run a 360-marketing campaign throughout 2023 to promote Oman to the travel platform’s customer base in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.The campaign will aim to increase awareness of Oman as a tourist destination. Oman is a fast-growing destination for Almosafer’s consumer business, with hotel bookings increasing exponentially in 2022. A release from the company stated that between January to October 2022, there has been a steep increase in bookings compared to the same period previous year. Hotel bookings from Saudi Arabia have increased by 370 percent and from the UAE by 432 percent for the year-to-date, compared to the same period in 2021, while bookings from Kuwait have increased by an astounding 1,070 percent. Almosafer’s parent company Seera Group announced its quarterly results last week in which the company reported its first post-pandemic operating profit of $8 million in the quarter ending September 30.

United Arab Emirates-headquartered TIME Hotels will be foraying into Morocco to come up with 35 luxurious lodges in an equestrian eco-resort in Ifrane’s National Park in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. The Atlas Crown Collection by TIME Resort will undergo a major extension and facelift which is expected to be completed by the end of 2023. It will comprise 17 luxurious, cedar wood lodges, 18 hotel suites, a conference center, a heated outdoor and indoor swimming pool, restaurant, man-made lake, wellness spa, horse stables and a kids’ club. The resort would be an ideal all-year-round getaway located approximately an hour away from Fes airport, said Mohamed Awadalla, CEO of TIME Hotels.

Egypt will soon be launching a new tourism promotion campaign in its source markets. The new campaign would serve to highlight the diversity and richness of the Egyptian tourist destinations and tourism products that caters to all tastes and categories of tourists, said Ahmed Issa, the tourism minister. Issa made these remarks during his meeting with executives and marketing officials of EasyJet Holidays and Wizz Air on the sidelines of his visit to London.

Sabre Corporation hosted an interactive event for key travel players in Saudi Arabia to discuss the evolving industry landscape in the region and the need for digital transformation. Calling Saudi Arabia an “exciting country to be in right now,” Abdul-Razzaq Iyer, vice president, Sabre Travel Network Middle East, said that the country has a bright vision to build a progressive global tourism brand. At the Riyadh event, Sabre showcased its latest technology, including corporate solutions, application programming interface (APIs) and automation, and outlined how these solutions can increase efficiency through automation, allowing agents to spend more time to serve their customers and keep track of latest trends. “We are helping some of the leading travel agencies in Saudi enter the online space, through access to intelligent technology that can personalize the customer journey,” Iyer said.

Dubai-based developer Nakheel announced last week that it has secured a financing of $4.6 billion. Nakheel announced that the financing would be utilised to accelerate the development of its new projects including the 17 square kilometres-long Dubai Islands — the man-made island being planned along the emirate’s northern coastline. A Nakheel spokesperson said this reflects the confidence of the banking institutions in the strategic new focus of the company. “We are entering a new phase of growth. This new era of Nakheel will be defined by our commitment to developing exceptional communities, enhancing customer-oriented services, and delivering value across all touch points,” a statement from the company read.

Qatar Tourism and online travel service providers, Group have signed a memorandum of understanding to promote Qatar across the globe as an ideal choice for family-friendly tourism. The one-year agreement will see Qatar extensively promoted through a series of marketing campaigns, across Group’s brands and associated assets, which include (China), (global), (India), and (global). As Qatar gets set to host football fans from around the world, Qatar Tourism has also unveiled Posts of Qatar — ten distinctive goalpost art installations that frame the iconic landmarks and picturesque spots across the country. Former soccer star David Beckham captured the first of many pictures to be taken at one of the goalposts.

Nikki Beach Global, the luxury lifestyle and hospitality brand, announced that the Nikki Beach Resort & Spa Muscat is slated to open in fall 2023. Developed in partnership with the government-owned Oman Tourism Development Company (OMRAN Group), the luxury hotel will feature an adjacent beach club — Nikki Beach Muscat — as well as residences. The beach club will launch simultaneously with the residences opening shortly after. Situated on Yiti Bay, 30 minutes from Muscat airport, the property will feature 115 rooms, 25 suites, and 30 villas with private pools. Reservations are slated to open in early 2023.

Bahrain state carrier Gulf Air will now be able to offer its customers greater access and connection opportunities to destinations in Europe, Africa, South America and Southeast Asia on the Emirates network through a unilateral codeshare partnership signed between the two airlines. Starting December, the expanded partnership will see Gulf Air place their marketing code “GF” on Emirates-operated flights beyond Dubai. Travellers will be able to connect to points including Budapest, Prague, Warsaw, Algeria, Tunis, Bali, Hanoi, HoChi Minh City, Taipei and Sao Paulo. The new partnership will also offer customers the convenience of combined ticketing and check-in, a unified policy and seamless transfers for baggage, and competitive single fares on a multi-airline journey when connecting on Emirates. Emirates currently has codeshare cooperation agreements in place with 26 airline partners and two rail companies around the world, expanding its network reach to over 300 cities.

Wynn Resorts has now confirmed that it would be operating a casino at its resort in Ras Al Khaimah when it opens in 2026. Wynn Resorts CEO Craig Billings has said that the casino at Wynn Marjan would be larger than the one that the operator has at Las Vegas. The casino would be the first one in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region as gambling is not permitted in countries that adhere to Islamic laws. “You certainly don’t want to underbuild the casino, but you want to maintain that sense of energy,” Billings said adding that the operator is currently focused on the United Arab Emirates project as it presents a tremendous, very high return opportunity for Wynn.

UAE-based platform for short-term rentals, Silkhaus, has announced that it has raised a $7.75 million seed round. Global and regional investors joining this round include Nuwa Capital, Nordstar, Global Founders Capital, Yuj Ventures, Whiteboard Capital, and VentureSouq. Headquartered in Dubai and coming out of stealth mode, Silkhaus calls itself a platform that builds technology that provides asset owners with tools to monetise and manage their properties as short-term rentals.The company founded last year, claims that it has identified a $13 billion market across the Middle East and North Africa region, South Asia and Southeast Asia. Following this investment, Silkhaus will accelerate its expansion across MENA, South Asia and Southeast Asia. The company said in a release that it would grow the supply of properties on its platform, with a focus on hiring extensively for technology and strategic roles.


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Tags: dubai, egypt, emirates air, gulf airlines, middle east, middle east newsletter, oman, qatar, sabre, saudi arabia, short-term rentals, Skift Pro Columns,, wynn resorts

Photo credit: Al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Saudi Arabia. ekrem / pixabay

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