Not satisfied with merely achieving pre-pandemic levels of tourism, Dubai has now set an ambitious goal of 40 million hotel guests in 2031.
Middle East Travel Roundup
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Dubai received 14.36 million international overnight visitors in 2022, growing 97 percent year-on-year from the 7.28 million tourist arrivals in 2021, according to the latest data published by Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism. In 2019, the city had welcomed a record 16.73 million international overnight visitors. The strong performance in 2022 features some noteworthy spikes in Dubai’s traditional key markets and strong growth across emerging markets. Dubai remained a first-choice safe travel destination for visitors from the city’s stronghold markets. Western Europe and Gulf regions each accounted for a 21 percent share of arrivals. The Gulf region in particular saw an exponential increase in their share of arrivals from 13 percent in 2021 to 21 percent last year. South Asia contributed 17 percent of total volumes while the Middle East and North Africa region contributed 12 percent, further reinforcing Dubai’s continued appeal to travelers from proximity markets. The Americas accounted for seven percent of arrivals while North Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa each contributed five percent and Australasia accounted for two percent.
Airlines in the Middle East saw a 157.4 percent rise in passenger traffic in 2022 compared to 2021, according to a report by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). International traffic in 2022 climbed 152.7 percent versus 2021 and reached 62.2 percent of 2019 levels. Revealing the results for the Middle East market, IATA noted that capacity increased 73.8 percent and load factor climbed 24.6 percentage points to 75.8 percent. December demand climbed 69.8 percent compared to the same month in 2021. “The industry left 2022 in far stronger shape than it entered, as most governments lifted Covid-19 travel restrictions during the year and people took advantage of the restoration of their freedom to travel,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General. Walsh said the momentum is expected to continue in 2023, despite the over-reaction of some government to China’s re-opening.
Hyatt Hotels Corporation has signed a deal for three new hotels in Saudi Arabia. The company announced on Monday that a Hyatt affiliate has entered into management agreements with Rua Al Madinah Holding Company to manage three new Hyatt-branded hotels. The three properties are set to be the first Hyatt-branded hotels in Madinah, a city that aims to attract 30 million tourists by 2030. Upon opening, the Grand Hyatt Madinah, Hyatt Regency Madinah and Hyatt Place Madinah will add a combined 1,729 room keys to Hyatt’s portfolio in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, significantly expanding Hyatt’s brand presence in the country. Hyatt’s current portfolio in Saudi Arabia consists of six properties across five brands – Park Hyatt Jeddah Marina, Club and Spa, Grand Hyatt Al Khobar Hotel and Residences, Hyatt Regency Riyadh Olaya, Jabal Omar Hyatt Regency Makkah, Hyatt Place Riyadh Al Sulaimania and Hyatt House Jeddah Sari Street.
The Egyptian civil aviation ministry held a meeting with heads of private airlines to discuss possible joint cooperation in the coming period to promote inbound and outbound tourism, the ministry announced in a statement on Sunday. Mohamed Abbas Helmy, the civil aviation minister said the ministry is keen to provide all the needed facilities to the Egyptian private airlines to improve their performance. While the meeting discussed enhancing the role of the private sector to improve air transport system, private airlines also spoke about the challenges that they face. Suggestions were also sought from airline representatives on ways to contribute to the development of air traffic and tourism to Egypt, opening new markets for air transport, and attracting more investments.
GuestReady, a hospitality and property technology company, has revealed that the firm’s United Arab Emirates office is among the top three offices leading the company’s global growth for 2022. With a focus on urban short-term rental management that allows both guests and owners to make the most of every stay, GuestReady saw 220 percent year-on-year sales growth in the United Arab Emirates in 2022, compared to 42 percent globally. The company’s presence in the country also saw a 155 percent growth in properties under management, compared to 49 percent globally, with now over 400 properties under management within Dubai. The growth is the combined result of the company’s approach and technology, an increasingly strong regulatory framework and positive market outlook, according to Reem Alkhatib, GuestReady’s Regional Managing Director.
Co-hosts of the women’s football world cup — Australia and New Zealand have urged Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) not to sign a sponsor deal with Visit Saudi, the tourism authority of Saudi Arabia. Calling Saudi Arabia a place where “rights of women remain severely restricted,” the two soccer federations expressed disappointment at the fact that FIFA did not consult them on this matter. The co-hosts noted that a Visit Saudi sponsorship could “severely tarnish the reputation” of the tournament that is set to kick off in July.
Kuwait Airways will be launching 20 new destinations in 2023 from June onwards. The destinations include Budapest, Malaga, Mykonos, Sarajevo, Athens, Vienna, Nice, Antalya, Trabzon, Bodrum, Sharm El Sheikh, Salalah, Izmir and Alexandria. “Kuwait Airways has also included a number of new cities to its winter schedule, commencing from October, such as Barcelona, Berlin, Abha, Al-Ula, Taif and Al-Qassim in Saudi Arabia,” said Shorouk Al-Awadhi, director of distribution and network planning at Kuwait Airways. The airline also announced that it would be launching the home check-in services by the end of February for Royal Class passengers traveling to all destinations, except New York. “Kuwait Airways is fully prepared for the year 2023, with its young fleet of diverse types of aircraft having the latest technology and features, and in pace with the best international standards,” said Director of Operations Captain Yousef Al-Ali.
The Dubai government has certified the 136-room boutique property FORM Hotel, a member of Design Hotels and Marriott Bonvoy, for sustainable tourism. FORM Hotel strives to be a sustainable organization by focusing on implementing innovative solutions to protect the environment while creating a positive impact, a statement from the hotel read. Reiterating the property’s committment to implement sustainable initiatives while allowing the hotel to reduce the costs, Houssam Mansour, general manager of FORM Hotel, said, “As the hospitality industry rapidly grows, it is important to ensure that sustainability stays as the core of the business.”
Kingdom Holding Company, a Saudi conglomerate with interests in hotel management and real estate, announced the inauguration of the first phase of the Four Seasons Hotel in Riyadh following its $68 million expansion and renovation. Ahmed Al Khateeb, Saudi Arabia’s tourism minister, who inaugurated the first phase of the Four Seasons Hotel, commended the new design of the hotel and called it a reflection of the Saudi identity. The renovation would help the hotel, that opened in 2003, keep pace with the acceleration of growth in Saudi’s tourism sector, a statement from the hotel read. In January, Four Seasons Hotel also partnered with a Saudi Arabia-based non-profit Misk Skills to train and skill 20 interns and aspiring managers in hospitality.
United Arab Emirates-based Leva Hotels announced an ambitious expansion drive, which will see the brand modernize and manage a total of eight properties spanning Middle East and Africa by the end of 2023. The brand that currently operates two properties in Dubai, announced the opening of six new properties across key regions. In Saudi Arabia, Leva Hotels has inked two hotel management agreements with Jeddah-based EKONO by Leva Al Shati and EKONO by Leva Jeddah Airport Hotel. The other properties would be in Nigeria, Uganda, two hotels in Ethiopia. As part of its long-term growth plans, Leva said that it is also keen on tapping notable emerging markets in the Middle East and Africa, which are largely untapped, such as Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Moscow City Tourism Committee has announced that it would be hosting an on-ground roadshow in Qatar to promote Moscow as a leading tourism and business destination on February 13 at Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Doha. Moscow had earlier partnered with Qatar in opening new museums and cultural centers, organizing city festivals, as well as large-scale events. In 2021, Qatar Museums signed two memorandums of understanding with the Russian Federation’s culture ministry and Russia’s State Hermitage Museum, during the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. The Moscow Tourism Committee said that it would be bringing more than 10 local companies such as representatives of destination management companies, hotels, and places of interest to showcase the destination in Qatar.
Oman’s low-cost carrier SalamAir has announced the introduction of a direct flight between Muscat and Kuala Lumpur with two flights per week beginning on July 3. Flights from Muscat to Kuala Lumpur are scheduled for Monday and Friday. The route caters to the high demand for leisure and business tourism from both countries. The flight to Kuala Lumpur marks the airline’s further expansion into Southeast Asia. Calling the new service another milestone in its network expansion strategy, Captain Mohamed Ahmed, CEO of SalamAir, said, “The flights will boost tourism, economic relations, business opportunities, and student movements between Oman and Malaysia and serve the overall Oman 2040 vision of supporting the inbound tourism sector as one of the main contributors to the national gross domestic products of the Sultanate.”
Dubai-based aviation consulting firm Bauer Aviation Advisory on Monday announced its expansion into the Asia Pacific market. With a rapidly growing economy and thriving business community, Singapore as a regional base for Asia Pacific presents a significant opportunity for Bauer Aviation Advisory to expand its reach, the company said in a press statement. “Singapore is a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship in the Asia-Pacific region, and we are thrilled to become a part of this dynamic community,” said Linus Benjamin Bauer, founder and managing director of Bauer Aviation Advisory. The company said it would continue to expand its global footprint and bring its growing on-demand platform of senior aviation experts to new markets.
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Photo credit: Dubai remained a first-choice safe travel destination for visitors from the city’s stronghold markets. Dubai tourism