The sheer number of hotel openings in the region indicates that the Middle East is making sure that it has enough capacity to accommodate the growing number of tourists.
Middle East Travel Roundup
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Hotel development in the Middle East is ramping up as investors begin to see opportunity in the region again, according to Lodging Econometrics’ Middle East Construction Pipeline Trend Report. The report said new project announcements in the region continued to trend upward throughout 2022 closing the fourth quarter of 2022 with 67 new projects housing 19,837 rooms, an increase of 56 percent year-on-year. The fourth quarter also witnessed 33 new hotels accounting for 6,452 rooms open in the region. Overall, 2022 saw a record number of hotels openings with 81 hotels accounting for 17,736 rooms. Lodging Econometrics’ forecast for new hotel openings in 2023 is 123 new hotels with 30,113 rooms while 116 new hotels and 29,085 rooms are forecast to open in 2024. Countries in the Middle East with the greatest number of projects in the construction pipeline at the close of fourth quarter were Saudi Arabia with 243 projects and 67,618 rooms, followed by the United Arab Emirates with 104 projects and 29,210 rooms. Egypt came third with record high project and room counts of 87 projects and 21,672 rooms.
Ride-hailing service Careem has announced that it will no longer operate in Qatar, 10 years after starting operations in the country. Through its app and email sent to its registered users, the transportation service provider announced that its ride hailing operations will no longer operate in Qatar as of February 28, 2023. In an update on its app, the company said, “Careem has loved being your trusted ride to get around Qatar. It’s been a pleasure to help simplify your day. Unfortunately, Careem’s ride-hailing services will no longer operate in Qatar as of February 28, 2023.” The announcement also revealed that any outstanding Careem credit or packages will be issued a full refund by March 15, 2023. The announcement, however, did not offer any reason for shutting down operations. Uber had acquired Careem’s mobility, delivery, and payments businesses across the greater Middle East region for $3.1 billion in January 2020.
Outdoor experiential hospitality company Collective Retreats will be opening what it calls a next-generation, ultra-sustainable retreat in Trojena, the snow-capped mountain destination located in Saudi Arabia. Developed in partnership with Neom, the developer of the mega futuristic city in Saudi Arabia, the retreat with 60 open-air guest rooms looks to re-imagine the meaning of outdoor hospitality. Slated for launch in 2026, the retreat will also offer direct access to Trojena’s full array of year-round outdoor activities including skiing and snowboarding, high altitude training, paragliding, mountain biking, hiking, yoga, water sports, dining experiences, and musical festivals. “We founded Collective Retreats with the singular goal of changing the way people travel. Trojena provides the ultimate backdrop to achieve this mission in ways we never imagined,” CEO and Founder Peter Mack said.
With a vision to add over 5,000 keys to its expansive portfolio in the next five years, Radisson Hotel Group announced that it has 39 hotels in the pipeline, further expanding its strong portfolio of hotels and resorts in the Middle East. The group currently operates 56 hotels and resorts in the region and manages 15,230 keys spanning nine distinctive brands. In 2022, Radisson Hotel Group dealt across key feeder markets, including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait and Jordan, by adding five properties to its development portfolio and by opening over 1,250 keys. For 2023, the group is looking to further expand its footprint in the region, with eight new openings across the Middle East in the coming months. “The UAE has been leading the path to global recovery, with Saudi Arabia leading the region and the world in terms of development and investment activity. Both countries are set to continue paving the way to becoming established hubs for the travel and tourism industry,” said Elie Milky, vice president, development, Middle East, Pakistan, Greece and Cyprus of Radisson Hotel Group.
National tourism agency VisitBritain, launched a new marketing campaign aimed at attracting visitors to Britain from the Gulf region. The international Great Britain marketing campaign invites visitors to “See Things Differently.” The multi-media advertising campaign — called “Spilling the Tea on Great Britain” — uses a play on Britain’s love of tea, through destination images and short films, to talk about the experiences on offer. “The Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) is an important tourism market for Britain and we are delighted to be running this dedicated campaign, tapping into motivations for travel this year, to build on the strong recovery we have seen,” VisitBritain’s Interim Deputy Director Carol Maddison said. VisitBritain is also working with partners such as Wego as well as content creators to amplify the campaign’s reach in the GCC.
United Arab Emirates-based global investment company Dubai Holding announced that it has acquired full ownership of The Westin Paris — Vendome after acquiring Henderson Park’s stake in the property. Henderson Park and Dubai Holding had acquired The Westin Paris — Vendome in a joint venture back in 2018. The acquisition further strengthens Dubai Holding’s extensive portfolio of world-class assets in key gateway locations. “It supports the group’s long-term strategy of global expansion that is focused on boosting its presence in strategic destinations across the world, including North America, the Middle East, Europe and Asia,” a release from the company stated. Dubai Holding said that it continues to pursue strategic investments and is focused on growing its international footprint and diversifying its asset base further.
Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2023 announced that it has witnessed 20 percent year-on-year increase in exhibitors from India, with the country’s outbound journeys expected to hit 27 million by 2024. ATM will return to Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) for its 30th edition from May 1-4. “The levels of outbound travellers predicted from India in the coming years mean it can command serious attention within the travel, tourism and hospitality sector,” Danielle Curtis, exhibition director Middle East, Arabian Travel Market, said. Many Indians regularly travel to the Gulf region for leisure, business, or a combination of both, taking advantage of the short distance, with Mumbai to Dubai, just a three-hour flight away. The number of direct flights between India and this region reflects these trends, with Emirates alone operating over 170 weekly flights to nine Indian cities — Gulf Air, Etihad, Qatar Airways and Oman Air each also have regular flights to Indian destinations.
Qatar Airways announced an expansion of its sports partnership portfolio with Formula 1 (F1), which will now see the state carrier as the global partner and official airline of the motorsport event. Qatar Airways and F1 will be partners through the 2027 season. “As a brand, we believe in the power of sports to unite people, and as such, we have been selective with picking the most thrilling sporting events and sponsoring a variety of new and prominent sporting initiatives,” Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, Akbar Al Baker, said. To celebrate this partnership, Discover Qatar, the destination management company of Qatar Airways, are the first to offer tickets to the Formula 1 Qatar Airways Qatar Grand Prix 2023. Discover Qatar has also exclusively launched a comprehensive range of hotel and ticket-inclusive packages to their global retail partners, which include Grandstand and prestigious Paddock Club tickets. All packages include a free entry pass to the Geneva International Motor Show Qatar taking place in Doha from October 5-14.
Dubai headquartered hotel management company Aleph Hospitality has announced its partnership with France-based Fauchon Hospitality at a recent signing ceremony in Paris. The agreement names Aleph Hospitality as the exclusive developer and operator of the Fauchon L’Hôtel portfolio in the Middle East and Africa. Fauchon Hospitality has five glamourous boutique hotels in the pipeline with the aim to become a global hospitality company with a luxury collection of 20 hotels by 2030. “We believe the region has tremendous potential for the aspirational and sophisticated brand experience offered by Fauchon L’Hôtel,” said Bani Haddad, founder and managing director of Aleph Hospitality. Calling the Middle East and Africa region important to Fauchon Hospitality, Jacques-Olivier Chauvin, its CEO said, “A large part of our customer base is located in this area and familiar with our existing Fauchon retail outlets.” Aleph Hospitality has targeted 50 hotels in the Middle East and Africa by 2026.
Oman’s low-cost airline SalamAir has announced direct flights to two new destinations Mashhad in Iran and Almaty in Kazakhstan. Mashhad is the third destination in Iran for the airline, with flights to Shiraz and Tehran already in its network, and Almaty is the airline’s first entry into Kazakhstan. Weekly flights from Muscat to Mashhad started on February 21 and the flight to Almaty will start from July 1. These two routes serve a high demand for medical, business, and leisure tourism and new flights will also offer convenient connections to the SalamAir network, the airline said. Commenting on the routes, Captain Mohamed Ahmed, CEO of SalamAir, said, “Iran has been one of the key focus markets for us. The steady bilateral connection and strong cultural and economic ties between Oman and Iran have given significant momentum to our growth plans.” Oman and Kazakhstan recently agreed to have close bilateral cooperation in the fields of economy, renewable energy, tourism, and food security.
Saudi Arabia is expected to witness an exponential growth in entertainment venues in the kingdom, with licenses being granted for more than 24 amusement parks and 421 entertainment centers in January 2023. The growing number of water parks and aquatic entertainment sites indicates that property developers are finding new ways to integrate water rides into venues to create experiences that surprise and delight guests from all over the world.The spending on leisure amusement and theme parks in the Middle East and Africa is expected to reach $609 million in 2023, with customer attendance projected to increase to 13 million in 2023 from 7.3 million in 2018, demonstrating a substantial rise in demand for such entertainment destinations in the region.
Saudi air carrier Flynas announced that it welcomed the first aircraft out of 19 A320neo’s to join its fleet during 2023, upscaling its fleet size to 44 aircraft. In line with the company’s growth and expansion strategy Flynas aims to reach 165 domestic and international destinations. Flynas said it will now be increasing the new aircraft orders to 250, making it the largest low-cost carrier in the Middle East and North Africa region. The airline said this is also in tandem with its capabilities to contribute to achieving the goals of the Civil Aviation Strategy to reach 330 million passengers and increasing the number of international destinations linked to Saudi Arabia to more than 250 destinations by 2030. Since its launch in 2007, Flynas currently connects more than 70 domestic and international destinations to the kingdom.
Jordan’s Queen Alia International Airport welcomed the first flight from Sphinx International Airport — the second international airport in Cairo. Air Cairo will operate two weekly flights on Fridays and Mondays between the two countries. This establishes yet another non-stop link between Amman and Cairo. “The importance of this connection lies not only in offering our passengers more affordable travel options, but also in opening new opportunities for leisure and business travel between Egypt and Jordan,” said Airport International Group CEO, Nicolas Claude. The CEO also talked about the group’s commitment to expand its partnerships and routes.
Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal, part of Abu Dhabi (AD) Ports Group, has recorded its highest number of international cruise passengers for a month in the past five years. In January 2023, more than 88,000 tourists arrived at the terminal in Zayed Port, with 42,000 on Sir Bani Yas Island, according to a statement from the Abu Dhabi Media Office. In January, the group announced the opening of the first cruise terminal in the Jordanian city of Aqaba, thus marking the first of its five strategic mega-projects being planned in the kingdom. AD Ports Group will manage and operate the new cruise terminal.
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Photo credit: New hotel project announcements in the Middle East closed the fourth quarter of 2022 with 67 new projects. Pixabay / Pexels