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The Middle East's aviation sector is poised to play a pivotal role in shaping the region's tourism narrative.

Series: Middle East Travel Roundup

Middle East Travel Roundup

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Middle Eastern carriers are leading the aviation recovery in May with traffic at 17% above 2019 levels, according to a report from International Air Transport Association (IATA). The airlines in the region saw a 31% traffic increase compared to May a year ago. Capacity climbed 25% and the load factor pushed up almost 4 percentage points to 80%. Globally, traffic in May is now at 96% of May 2019 levels.

Carriers registered in the Middle East also witnessed an increase in their passenger load factors, which stood at 80%, while outperforming their 2019 load factors by almost 7 percentage points.

“The strong demand for travel is one element supporting a return to profitability by airlines. In 2023 we expect airlines globally to post a $9.8 billion net profit. But a 1.2% average net profit margin is just $2.25 per departing passenger. As a return, that is not sustainable in the long-term,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general.

Sustainability Is A Priority for Leisure Travelers

A new research study by Bain & Company reveals a growing interest in sustainable tourism among leisure travelers worldwide. The study shows that travelers are increasingly choosing destinations and providers based on their sustainability records and are willing to pay a premium for it. However, some travelers still feel that the travel and tourism sector needs to do more to be sustainable.

“The uptake in sustainable tourism is driven by an appetite to travel sustainably and make more responsible choices. Bain has developed a framework defining the components of a sustainable tourism experience around three pillars — environmental impact, social responsibility, and community engagement,” said Karim Henain, partner at Bain & Company Middle East.

The study also highlights the significant opportunity among sustainability enthusiasts interested in visiting the Middle East and Africa region. The research covered consumers from six markets: Germany, Italy, France, the UK, Saudi Arabia, and China. Overall, consumers consider sustainability important when traveling, expect it to become more important in the future, and are willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings.

Saudi Citizens Granted Visa-Free Entry to Bosnia and Herzegovina

Citizens of Saudi Arabia have been granted visa-free entry to Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 2023 tourism season. This visa exemption will be valid for three months. The decision to ease the visa regime aims to enhance economic cooperation and promote tourism between the two countries, as stated by the foreign ministry of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Saudi tourists visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina are required to provide evidence of a paid tourism program package upon arrival at the customs area, along with proof of travel health insurance and return transportation. The residency period for Saudi visitors during this three-month period will be limited to 30 days. For Saudis traveling to Bosnia and Herzegovina for commercial purposes or short trips, an invitation letter approved by the foreign affairs department of Bosnia and Herzegovina is required upon arrival.

Almosafer Offers Free Trip Insurance to Customers

To help travelers mitigate risks and enjoy stress-free trips, Saudi Arabia’s Almosafer has partnered with Al Rajhi Takaful to offer free trip insurance to its customers. The insurance will be automatically included with every international and domestic flight booking made through Almosafer’s various booking channels. The free trip insurance will be available for a limited time period with every flight booking made through Almosafer.

Both companies emphasize the importance of customer experience and seek to enhance offerings that are relevant and valuable to travelers. This partnership reflects Almosafer’s commitment to strategic collaborations and seamless user experiences for its customers, said Muzzammil Ahussain, CEO of Almosafer.

Flynas Connects More Central Asian Destinations to Jeddah.

Saudi Arabian low-cost carrier Flynas has announced new direct flight routes connecting Bishkek and Osh in Kyrgyzstan, and Almaty in Kazakhstan to Jeddah. This expansion is part of the airline’s partnership agreement with the Air Connectivity Program, aimed at boosting tourism growth and strengthening ties between Central Asia and Saudi Arabia. Starting from August 20, Flynas will begin operating three weekly direct flights from Osh, followed by flights from Bishkek on September 2.

The airline will also introduce two weekly direct flights between Almaty and Jeddah from September 2. These initiatives align with Saudi Arabia’s goal of attracting 100 million tourists annually by 2030. Additionally, Flynas will increase the frequency of flights between Tashkent and Jeddah, offering three weekly direct flights from August 20. With over 70 domestic and international destinations, Flynas aims to serve a total of 165 destinations, contributing to the increased air connectivity within the kingdom.

Marriott to Open Element by Westin in Doha

Al Rayyan Tourism Investment Company (ARTIC) and Element Hotels, part of Marriott Bonvoy‘s portfolio, have announced the opening of Element West Bay by Westin in Doha. Element Hotels looks to cater to the needs of travelers who seek a balanced routine while on the road. The hotel will be offering a range of accommodations, including studio, one, two, three, and four-bedroom apartments. With a focus on longer stays, the apartments are furnished with a large workstation, and a fully equipped kitchenette.

The opening of Element West Bay expands ARTIC’s portfolio to 12 hotels in Doha and 35 operational hotels across all regions. “Qatar’s hospitality sector will continue its growth momentum following the World Cup and we are confident that this will generate great opportunities for Element West Bay,” said Tarek M El Sayed, managing director and CEO of ARTIC.

Middle East Hotels Report Mixed Bag of Profit and Loss

Jordan and Qatar stood apart from the pack in the Middle East and Africa on a key measure of hotel and resort profitability in May, the latest month of available data. In the region, many hotels and resorts are full-service properties with a variety of services, such as spas.

A preferred measure of profitability is total gross operating profit per available room.

Jordan and Qatar were the only hotel markets in the region to notch month-over-month gains in this measure, according to hotel benchmarking firm STR. Both had double-digit gains. More significantly, Jordan’s gross operating profit per available room was 6% higher than a year earlier.

Qatar only reached 79% of its gross operating profit per available room in May that it did a year earlier, showing relative weakness after a burst of post-pandemic travel demand a year ago. Yet Qatar did see a 39% increase month-over-month, suggesting a positive trend — and a more positive trend than in many other countries in the region.

STR had earlier highlighted that Saudi Arabia has the largest hotel construction activity in the Middle East and Africa region, followed by United Arab Emirates. The significant construction volume in Saudi Arabia had also triggered a discussion on how the hotel development pipeline is expected to face disruptions in 2024.

IHG Brings Voco Brand to Lebanon

IHG Hotels & Resorts has signed a franchise agreement with DIA SARL to introduce its premium brand, Voco, in Lebanon. The conversion property, Voco Beirut Central District, is expected to be rebranded by the end of the year, adding 123 rooms to IHG’s portfolio in the country. Since its global launch in 2018, Voco has experienced rapid growth, and the signing in Beirut marks its debut in the Levant region.

As the largest hotel operator in the country, IHG currently operates 4 hotels (close to 900 keys) across 3 brands in Lebanon including — InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Staybridge Suites. IHG aims to strengthen its presence in the Middle East and provide diverse hospitality options across key markets.

Abu Dhabi’s Hotel and Tourism Regulations

Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), the international financial centre of Abu Dhabi, has issued the ADGM Hotel and Tourism Regulations 2023. These regulations incorporate the onshore tourism legislation administered by Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) into ADGM’s legislative framework. As a result, the DCT will be responsible for regulatory functions, including supervision and enforcement, while ADGM’s Registration Authority will issue commercial licenses and permits for hotels and tourism establishments within ADGM’s jurisdiction.

The new regulations ensure that all entities operating in ADGM, such as hotels, resorts, restaurants, and tourist services, comply with the onshore legislation’s requirements. Hamad Sayah Al Mazrouei, CEO of ADGM Registration Authority, highlighted the strategic cooperation between ADGM and Abu Dhabi’s governmental bodies, stating that the adoption of onshore hotel and tourism legislation provides operators with assurance and alignment in regulating the sector.

360 Stays by Signum Hotels Announces Entry in Dubai

India-based hotel management company Signum Hotels has announced its entry into the Middle East market with the launch of 360 Stays by Signum in Dubai. 360 Stays by Signum will manage 24 serviced apartments in Dubai’s La Mer, offering services tailored to the needs of high-net-worth individuals.

Mehul Sharma, founder and CEO of Signum Hotels & Resorts, expressed enthusiasm about entering the Middle Eastern market and revealed plans to explore other destinations such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman. The La Mer property will feature fully serviced one and two-bedroom units.

Jazeera Airways Introduces Pre-Order Service for Duty Free and On-Board Shopping

Kuwaiti low-cost carrier Jazeera Airways has introduced a new pre-ordering service for duty free and on-board shopping. The service allows passengers to pre-order luxury perfumes, jewellery, electronics, tobacco, and other gift items from the Jazeera Duty Free or On-board shop to receive them during their flight.

The pre-ordering option is available when booking flights through the Jazeera website or the app up to 24 hours before departure. The airline said in a release that pre-ordered items are priced up to 15% lower than in-flight purchases. The airline said it is the first Middle Eastern low-cost carrier to offer this pre-ordering service. The offer is available for most destinations in the Jazeera network, which includes over 63 locations across the Middle East, Africa, Central and South Asia, and Europe.

Red Sea Global Partners with Saudi Airlines Catering

Red Sea Global, the developer of The Red Sea and Amaala, will be partnering with Saudi Airlines Catering Company (SACC) to bring essential hospitality services to the destination. Saudi Airlines Catering will design, build, and operate a Central Production Unit (CPU) for catering services and laundry services for the Red Sea destination, including employee meals, uniforms, and hotel linen.

The partnership aims to provide seamless services to partners and employees while benefiting local communities through the development of local supply chains. The collaboration aims to align with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and will create more than 500 new industry roles for Saudi nationals within the kingdom. Read Sea Global is preparing to welcome its first guests later this year, with full completion of the destination expected in 2030.

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Tags: abu dhabi, asia monthly, bain capital, hotels, iata, ihg, kazakhstan, kyrgyzstan, marriott, Middle East airlines, middle east newsletter, red sea, Red Sea Development Company, red sea global, saudi arabia, Seera Group, str, sustainability, visa waiver

Photo credit: Middle Eastern carriers lead aviation recovery in May. Reuters

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