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Given that hotels and short-term rentals are competing for the same target audience, one cannot ignore the competitive dynamics between these two industries.

Series: Middle East Travel Roundup

Middle East Travel Roundup

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In a recent announcement, the Ajman Department of Tourism Development unveiled the introduction of a holiday homes service. The main aim of this initiative is to revitalize the tourism sector and enhance the appeal of Ajman as a top-notch destination for visitors. Ajman has also introduced comprehensive regulations to govern and supervise the operations of holiday homes throughout the emirate. These services offer property owners and hotel management companies the opportunity to lease residential units for short durations, presenting a flexible and innovative alternative to traditional long-term contracts, according to Ajman tourism. The tourism development also offers inspection and classification services for registered units, distinguishing between criteria for touristic and luxury accommodations. With the tourism sector in Ajman experiencing steady growth, the overarching objective is to expand the range of lodging choices available in the emirate.

Demand for short-term rentals in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) gained momentum last year after the implementation of new visa policies aimed at attracting more global tourists. UAE has set a target of 40 million tourists by 2030 and a sector contribution of $123 billion to the national gross domestic product (GDP). The outlook for the short-term vacation rental market remains positive as remote working and staycations gain popularity worldwide. The Dubai market, in particular, is thriving, supported by the influx of tourists visiting the country. Dubai has also introduced various reforms aimed at attracting more people to the emirate, including the remote working visa and multi-entry tourist visa, which could help this segment over the coming years.

Last year, Sharjah — one of the emirates in the country — launched its “Holiday Homes Project,” allowing residents to rent out places they own to tourists and visitors. There are estimated to be more than 300 holiday homes in the emirate, according to the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority. Besides Airbnb units, operators such as Sonder are also present in the United Arab Emirates market. Emaar Properties, Dubai’s largest developer, as well as Accor with the SLS Dubai Hotel and Residences in Business Bay, are also getting into the short-term rentals market in the country.

Skyscanner Provides Insight Into Summer Travel From UAE

Even as 91 percent of travelers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are planning to get away this summer, almost 48 percent are yet to book their summer getaway, according to Skyscanner’s latest report. Of those yet to book, 54 percent cited they’re still deciding on dates, whilst 49 percent are waiting to find the best deal. Whilst almost 50 percent of UAE travelers share that they know that there are cheaper weeks of the summer holidays to travel, Skyscanner data shows that only 4 percent of them are searching for trips during the cheapest of the summer or school holidays. According to Skyscanner data, the first two weeks of the school holidays are by far the most popular weeks to head away this summer, however, this is in fact the most expensive time to travel. Skyscanner’s data shows that on an average, travelers can save 10 percent by traveling the week of August 19 rather than the start of July, meaning an average saving of $207 for a family of four.

Dubai to Host IATA Annual General Meeting Next Year

Dubai will be hosting the annual general meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and World Air Transport Summit from June 2-4 next year. Emirates Airlines has been announced as the host of IATA’s 80th annual general meeting. This will be the first time the United Arab Emirates will host the global gathering of aviation leaders. Calling Dubai a major aviation hub, Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general, said, “The UAE’s positive approach to aviation has built a strong airline with a strong hub airport. Together, these make an enormously powerful and positive contribution to the society and economy of the UAE. Holding the AGM in Dubai will be a showcase of what can be achieved by aviation with supportive government policies and decisions.

Rotana to Debut Casino Resort in Georgia

United Arab Emirates-based hotel company Rotana is set to debut its Rotana branded five-star property in Georgia featuring a casino. Expected to open in 2026 the 600-key Pontus Rotana Resort & Spa Gonio marks a significant milestone for Rotana as the group continues to expand its footprint internationally with new regions in the pipeline. Rotana has partnered with Georgia-based private equity firm Pontus Capital for the resort that will be located in the beach suburb of Batumi. “Batumi, a truly all-four-season city with mesmerizing natural beauty, will offer an attractive destination for visitors to experience Georgia. The Georgian culture and language have deep connections to the Arab world, making our partnership with Rotana a natural fit,” said Irakli Varshalomidze, managing director from Pontus Capital. Rotana recently announced its entry into UK with the launch of two new properties under its affordable hotel and serviced apartment brand, Centro, Centro New Malden set to launch this year and Centro Kingston slated to open in 2024. 

Foo Unveils Prepaid Travel Card

United Arab Emirates-headquartered fintech solutions provider, Foo, has unveiled a customizable travel card solution aimed at assisting banks in meeting consumer expectations for a secure, cost-effective, and convenient payment method. This solution includes a prepaid card that can be conveniently topped up from anywhere and at any time. Additionally, it features a white label digital wallet app with sub-wallets for multiple foreign currencies, enabling real-time card and currency management. Foo emphasizes that it seamlessly integrates optional modules, such as digital onboarding and ATM withdrawals. The app would allow expense monitoring and management of multiple sub-wallets in a single interface. With the boom in business and leisure travel since the pandemic, the multi-currency prepaid card has emerged as an indispensable digital payment solution for travelers. “Global payment solutions are no longer simply a value added benefit. Consumers expect a seamless experience across various touchpoints, both in their daily life and while traveling abroad,” said Ghady Rayess, managing partner at Foo.

Kanoo Travel Launches New Vertical

Travel company Kanoo Travel has announced the launch of its new vertical, Kanoo Travel More for offshore, marine, resource, and energy travel solutions. The new vertical also marks the travel company’s strategic partnership with Norway-owned and operated travel solution company, G Travel International, to deliver global travel management services. Calling the collaboration a significant  milestone, Zaeem Gama, Kanoo Travel’s divisional CEO, said the partnership unlocks potential to serve customers with unique opportunities for travel suited to their specific needs by employing their strong network and experience in the marine and energy market. “The engagement brings together our global footprint and unique knowledge in the marine and energy sector, as well as Kanoo Travel’s leading position and customer-centric approach in the local market,” said Finn Hansen, owner of G Travel International. G Travel International has wholly owned subsidiaries in several regions, including U.S., the Philippines, UK and Poland. Additionally, the firm has also a partner network in the marine industry.

Riyadh Air Obtains RX Airline Designator Code

Saudi Arabia’s newest carrier Riyadh Air announced that it has obtained “RX” as an Airline Designator Code from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). With its operations scheduled for early 2025, Riyadh Air’s will connect Saudi Arabia’s capital to more than 100 destinations around the world by 2030, Tony Douglas, CEO of Riyadh Air, said. Since the announcement of the airline in March 2023, the airline’s careers web page has received job applications from over 300,000 applicants across 182 countries around the world, a release from the airline stated. “RX as our IATA code will be on every touchpoint that our guests see as they take flight with us. The code reflects our ambition to be a digitally led airline, having the connection of innovation and state-of-the-art technology,” Douglas said. IATA codes are considered essential for the identification of an airline, international bookings and in the work of ground service teams at airports.

Dubai Airports Takes Stock of Hajj Travel Preparations

The Hajj Committee at Dubai Airports convened recently to discuss comprehensive preparations to facilitate the smooth and seamless travel of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia this year. Hajj this year will take place between June 26 to July 1. The committee, which comprises key service partners including Dubai Police, the General Directorate of Residency & Foreigners Affairs, Dubai Customs, Dubai Health Authority, flydubai, Emirates, Saudi Airlines, and Flynas, among others, aims to deliver a seamless airport experience for the pilgrims across all terminals at Dubai airport. Mohammad Al Marzouqi, head of the Hajj Committee, emphasized on the importance of collaboration among all stakeholders and service partners as the key to maintaining service quality especially during annual peak travel seasons.

Hyatt to Bring Hyatt Centric to Egypt

Hyatt announced that it has entered into a franchise agreement with Egypt-based developer ALDAU Development to bring the full-service lifestyle brand, Hyatt Centric, to Egypt, with Hyatt Centric Cairo West. The 283-key lifestyle hotel will become the second Hyatt-branded hotel in Cairo’s Pyramids Heights Business Park, following the opening of Hyatt Regency Cairo West in 2021. The signing marks the debut of Hyatt Centric brand in the region. “The signing showcases our commitment to enhancing our lifestyle portfolio, and growing our brand presence in markets that matter most to our guests and World of Hyatt members,” said Ludwig Bouldoukian, regional vice president of development, Middle East and Africa, at Hyatt. The hotel would provide easy access to the Grand Egyptian Museum and Giza Pyramids, said Bassel Sami Saad, chairman of ALDAU Development. 

Middle Eastern Airlines Posted 38 Percent Traffic Increase in April

The Middle East’s return to profitability in 2022 was supported by a significant increase in the passenger load factor of almost 25 percentage points, outstripping the performance of the other regions, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Middle Eastern carriers have also been swiftly rebuilding their international networks and in March 2023, the region’s international connectivity had returned to 98 percent of its pre-Covid level, according to IATA. Middle Eastern airlines also posted a 38 percent traffic increase in April compared to April 2022 as capacity climbed 28 percent and load factor rose 5.6 percentage points to 76 percent. As passenger traffic demand continued to remain strong in April, the Middle East’s total passenger traffic market share measured in revenue passenger kilometers was almost 10 percent in 2022.

Sharjah Aims to Lead the Region in Ecotourism

After successfully attracting 1.4 million tourists in 2022, Sharjah is working towards accomplishing an ambitious goal of becoming the region’s leading ecotourism provider. The emirate has been talking about developing a pioneering model in fostering sustainability in the tourism sector. “Commitment to sustainability practices, particularly in tourism, leads to the development of a sense of responsibility in travelers. It creates a human-nature symbiosis and enables us to meaningfully participate in and contribute to our travel experiences, instead of just mindlessly consuming,” said Khalid Jassim Al Midfa, chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority. The developmental trajectory of the tourism sector in Sharjah testifies to the inclusive vision that the emirate has championed for decades to include sustainable and environment-friendly options in its cultural project, the tourism authority said in a release. The emirate introduced the model of the Sharjah Sustainable City, the first sustainable residential community in the emirate which includes 1250 villas powered by renewable energy and aspires to achieve Net Zero Energy.

Qatar Airport’s Environment Sustainability Goals   

Qatar’s Hamad International Airport announced that it has reused or recycled about 40 percent of the waste generated through the airport operations in the fiscal year 2023, including 736 tonnes of plastic waste. The non-recyclable waste was used to produce electricity. Hamad International Airport’s commitment to environmental protection and objective of zero to landfill has initiated processes to further enhance its waste management systems, resulting in over 1,200 tonnes of waste being diverted from landfill for further segregation, recycling and energy recovery, each month. Part of the airport’s environment sustainability goals consists of waste management and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The airport is tackling its waste management processes, engaging with commercial stakeholders and government entities in order to adopt the best environmental standards that will have a positive impact on the environment. The airport in a statement said it is constantly engaging with stakeholders and commercial partners to reduce energy by adopting environmental solutions and is investing in the best and most reliable technologies in the world, to meet the business’ environmental objectives, in line with Qatar’s National Vision 2030.

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Tags: airbnb, asia monthly, dubai, emirates air, iata, middle east newsletter, Riyadh Air, rotana, short-term rentals, skyscanner, sonder, travel tech

Photo credit: Ajman Department of Tourism Development has unveiled the introduction of a holiday homes service. Ajman Tourism

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