The Chinese are coming and Middle East destinations are harnessing the mighty impact of these visitors to conquer ambitious tourism goals.
Middle East Travel Roundup
Get the latest news from the Middle East in one easy-to-digest newsletter.
Over 20 percent of Chinese millionaires plan to visit the Middle East in the next 12 months, according to the latest TrendLens report from luxury consulting firm Agility. The report analyzed the survey responses of 315 affluent and 216 high net-worth individuals in China in March and April this year. Those planning overseas leisure trips jumped from 50 percent in 2022 to 75 percent this year. High net-worth individuals expressed a preference for buying beauty, alcohol, watch, and jewelry products abroad in search of better deals. China’s high net-worth individuals and affluent consumers are more confident about their disposable income and investments, and spending on luxury products and experiences like tourism, according to the report. Having welcomed 989,000 Chinese tourists, China was Dubai’s fifth-largest source market in 2019. When Saudi Arabia opened to tourism in 2019, the maximum number of tourist visas issued were to Chinese tourists. More than 100,000 Chinese tourists visited Saudi Arabia in 2019. Following the resumption of outbound group tours for Chinese citizens on February 6, Middle East destinations have been wooing Chinese tourists. Dubai has been actively promoting travel-related campaigns in China and has continued to implement a visa-free policy for Chinese visitors as well as a “China Ready” strategy. With plans to welcome 4 million Chinese visitors by 2030, Saudi Arabia included China in its e-visa program and in the 96-hour stopover visa program that allows guests flying in to the country to avail a complimentary one-night hotel stay. Ahmed Issa, the tourism minister of Egypt had said this year that around 30 million Chinese tourists are interested in visiting Egypt over the next few years. China’s largest online travel agency Trip.com Group has also signed an agreement with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Abu Dhabi to promote these destinations. Speaking at the Skift Global Forum East in Dubai last year, Trip.com’s Chief Operating Officer, Schubert Lou, said old marketing strategies would not work on the new Chinese traveler.
In a bid to improve transparency and increase confidence among investors and visitors in the short-term rental market, Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism has announced the launch of a new QR Code initiative for holiday homes in Dubai. The initiative is also in line with Dubai’s digital transformation strategy, which seeks to establish the emirate as a leading global smart city. As part of the initiative, owners of holiday homes will now be required to display a QR code on the main entrances of their vacation properties in Dubai. This code would then enable visitors and guests to access essential information about the operator of the holiday home and provide relevant contact details of the Department of Economy and Tourism. The initiative will also facilitate oversight and inspections conducted by the Dubai Corporation for Consumer Protection and Fair Trade, ensuring strict compliance with procedures, a release from the government stated. The holiday homes segment in the emirate has registered substantial growth, reaching 21,132 units, 46 percent growth, with 32,794 rooms by the end of March 2023, according to Department of Economy and Tourism data. Additionally, holiday homes hosted 137,144 guests in the first quarter of 2023.
India was one of the major tourism source markets for the United Arab Emirates as the country welcomed nearly five million Indian visitors in 2022, said Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri, United Arab Emirates’ minister of economy. Bin Touq was speaking during a meeting with Indian tourism minister G Kishan Reddy in which the ministers explored the possibility of enhancing investment exchanges in the tourism sector. The ministers also discussed increasing tourism flows between the two countries, in addition to increasing the number of mutual flights. “We are keen to enhance cooperation with India to explore more promising opportunities in the tourism sector and launch innovative tourism projects that harness the potential of latest technologies in hospitality services. This will enhance the tourists’ experience and make the two countries preferred tourism destinations,” Bin Touq said.
Saudi low-cost carrier Flynas has revealed plans to transport more than 100,000 pilgrims from more than 13 countries during this Hajj season. Gearing up for the Hajj season, Flynas has taken delivery in early May of its fourth wide-body Airbus A330 aircraft, boosting the operational capacity and increasing the number of passengers on new medium-to-long-haul destinations. The increase in capacity is in line with Saudi Arabia’s National Civil Aviation Strategy to reach 330 million passengers and increasing the number of international destinations connected to the country to more than 250 destinations by 2030. Through its growth and expansion strategy launched in early 2022, under the slogan “We Connect the World to the Kingdom,” Flynas aims to reach 165 domestic and international destinations. The airline currently connects more than 70 domestic and international destinations and has flown more than 60 million passengers since its launch in 2007.
Qatar’s Hamad International Airport has selected private data storage company DataDirect Networks to provide advanced data storage solutions to enhance security measures. Having completed the first phase of its airport expansion project, the airport commenced Phase-B of its expansion plan in January, which will increase the airport capacity to over 70 million passengers annually. With this enormous volume of travelers, close-circuit television is an essential part of the passenger safety infrastructure for the airport. DataDirect was chosen because of its unique combination of performance, scalability and cost effectiveness, the airport said in a release. “Data is an integral enabler for our digital transformation agenda, hence partnering with DataDirect, which has a strong understanding of modern data storage demands, supports our commitment towards offering an innovative, safe and smart airport experience,” said Suhail Kadri, senior vice president technology and innovation, at Hamad International Airport.
Developer Red Sea Global has announced that The Red Sea will join Virtuoso’s exclusive portfolio of luxury travel partners. The global travel network specializing in luxury and experiential travel, comprises over 2,300 suppliers in 100 countries. Set to welcome its first guests this year, The Red Sea will be part of Vortusoso’s network of the world’s finest hotels, resorts, cruise lines, tour operators and other travel entities. “Set among desert canyons, dormant volcanoes and unexplored islands, we are pioneering a unique relationship between luxury tourism and the natural environment at The Red Sea,” said John Pagano, Group CEO of Red Sea Global. The association with Virtuoso will also showcase the distinct benefits of regenerative tourism, he added. Located on the west coast of Saudi Arabia across 28,000 square kilometers, The Red Sea will be home to a host of prestigious luxury brands, including Ritz Carlton Reserve and Miraval Resorts — the first to operate in the Middle East. Upon completion in 2030, The Red Sea will comprise 50 resorts, offering up to 8,000 hotel rooms and more than 1,000 residential properties across 22 islands and six inland sites. The destination will also include an international airport, luxury marinas, golf courses, entertainment, and leisure facilities.
After the Gerry the Goose campaign, Dubai carrier Emirates has now selected Penelope Cruz as its latest brand ambassador. The new TV spots will start to air globally from June, in both English and Spanish. The ads featuring Cruz will have for its theme “Travel is not just about the end destination; it’s also about how you get there.” The new TV spots have been directed by Robert Stromberg, an Oscar-winning Hollywood director. “We wanted a brand ambassador who reflects the Emirates brand — it needed to be someone classy, stylish, and having modern global appeal. Penelope was the perfect fit,” said Richard Billington, Emirates’ senior vice president of brand and advertising. Cruz will partner in the ad series to be aired globally on TV news channels, featured on Emirates’ own digital channels, with more joint activities to be announced over the coming year.
Dubai-based real estate developer Deyaar Development has announced the launch of Millennium Talia Residences, hotel apartments being operated by Millennium Hotels & Resorts. Situated at Al Furjan, one of Dubai’s most popular and vibrant districts, Millennium Talia Residences will be Deyaar’s second release in Al Furjan out of a total project portfolio worth $82 million, and its fourth property managed by Millennium Hotels & Resorts, after Millennium Atria Business Bay, Millennium Mont Rose at Dubai Science Park and Millennium Al Barsha. Millennium Talia Residences offers fully furnished apartments with services such as concierge, food & beverage room service and housekeeping as well as amenities like swimming pool, gymnasium and a leisure club, Deyaar stated in a release. “Dubai remains one of the most dynamic and desirable residential markets globally and we are pleased to play a supporting role in the growth of this sector,” said Fahad Abdulrahim Kazim, CEO of Millennium Hotels & Resorts, Middle East & Africa.
The First Group, an end-to-end hospitality solutions provider, is extending its presence in the Gulf with the launch of a new dedicated hotel management division. The new division will provide third-party management services to owners and investors looking to maximise the commercial potential of their hotel and hospitality assets. The company said it would leverage its proven expertise to offer best-in-class services and solutions to maximise the revenue-generating potential of clients’ assets. “Our goal is to ensure that every property we manage operates to its maximum potential, remains adaptable to the latest market trends, and delivers exceptional guest experiences and strong financial returns for our partners,” said Rob Burns, CEO of The First Group. The launch also coincides with The First Group being appointed to manage Zoya Health and Wellbeing Resort in Al Zorah, Ajman, the region’s first fully integrated wellness resort. The First Group currently operates seven hotels in the UAE, and its core service offering represents a comprehensive approach to hospitality management.
Saudia, the national flag carrier of Saudi Arabia, has signed an agreement with Accenture paving the way for a digital transformation program to help make the airline’s guest experience seamless and highly personalized while improving operational efficiency. Through this agreement, Saudia will use artificial intelligence technology to significantly enhance its digital infrastructure and build more than 260 new digital and electronic services in two years. Saudia guests will be able to enjoy more personalized services and a smooth travel experience possible across the entire travel cycle, from ticket search and booking to check-in, and from in-flight services to post-sale support, the airline said in a release. The airline that is looking to reimagine how guests choose, buy and enjoy leisure, business, and religious experiences will create seamless and curated journeys with hyper-relevant experiences across digital and human-driven interactions, Khaled Alhazmi, vice president of operations and IT support, said. “Guests will be able to modify flights, purchase transit eVisas, and enjoy new self-service features across all digital channels,” Alhazmi said.
Hilton announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Saudi Tourism Authority towards exploring cooperation opportunities and developing creative content to attract visitors from key markets across the Middle East and Africa. The partnership also highlights Hilton’s presence and growth in Saudi Arabia, where it currently operates 16 hotels — with another 51 in the pipeline and plans to grow its portfolio to more than 75 hotels in the coming years. Hilton’s portfolio in the kingdom includes iconic properties such as the Waldorf Astoria Jeddah — Qasr al Sharq, Conrad Makkah, Jeddah Hilton and Hilton Riyadh Hotel & Residences, with new brands making their country debut in the coming years including LXR Hotels & Resorts, Canopy by Hilton, Embassy Suites by Hilton, and Hampton by Hilton.
Travel technology company Amadeus Egypt has signed a deal with Egyptian ground handling company New Star Aviation Services. As per the deal, New Star looks to offer the latest flight booking technologies to its users, along with providing travel agencies with data required by the customers at competitive prices. “This will also enhance the technological services offered, allowing both companies to lead the current digital engines in the travel and tourism market,” the company said in a release. Amadeus Quick Connect is an end-to-end application programming interface that provides access to flight offers, offers travel options, and enables customers to compare flights of different airlines.
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Photo credit: Chinese high net-worth individuals expressed a preference for buying beauty products, alcohol, watch, and jewelry abroad. Unsplash / Unsplash