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Thailand is experiencing a shortfall in its anticipated number of Chinese tourists, potentially impacting its tourism target for 2023. The country is now exploring alternative markets like Middle Eastern tourists, who can significantly contribute to its tourism revenue despite not matching the Chinese numbers.

Series: Middle East Travel Roundup

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The Tourism Authority of Thailand is actively focusing on the Middle East as a crucial source market for tourism, aiming to attract 400,000 visitors from the region this year. Saudi Arabia is expected to lead the way with a projected 150,000 visitors, driven by the restoration of direct flights and enhanced diplomatic relations with Thailand.

This marks a significant shift as Saudi Arabia surpasses United Arab Emirates (UAE) as the largest market. In the first half of 2023, Thailand welcomed over 268,000 visitors from the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia accounting for more than 75,000 arrivals. The Middle East market is projected to grow further during the summer holidays, with an average stay of 10-12 days and an average spending of 80,000 baht per trip.

Flight resumption between Thailand and the Middle East has recovered to 80%, said Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s deputy governor for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas.

Earlier this year, Thailand increased its estimated target for international arrivals in 2023 to 30 million, which is more than double the total number of international tourism arrivals in 2022. However, the destination is expected to fall short of its target due to lower-than-anticipated tourist numbers from China.

Dubai’s 8.5 Million International Visitor Count Surpasses Pre-Covid Levels

Dubai welcomed over 8.5 million international visitors in the first half of 2023, according to the most recent data available. The emirate’s arrivals data exceeded pre-Covid levels as it had received around 8.36 million international visitors in the first half of 2019. Dubai also emerged as one of the world’s top three most appealing cities for affluent individuals, and was dubbed as one of the fastest-recovering cities from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Dubai’s economic performance indicators for the first half of 2023 have surpassed expectations, bolstering our optimism for record results in the coming months,” said Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai and chairman of The Executive Council.

Launched this year, the Dubai Economic Agenda  D33 sets the ambitious goal of doubling the size of Dubai’s economy over the next decade, while making Dubai one of the top three international destinations for tourism and business

Dubai was also the top booked international destination by Indian travelers in the first half of 2023, according to a Booking.com report. Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism has been on a mission to attract more Indian tourists to the emirate.

And it seems like efforts are paying off. The city has witnessed a 23% surge in overnight visitor numbers during the first five months of 2023. The city has also organized mega familiarization trips hosting over 200 travel agents from 30 cities across India. Trade exhibitions, roadshows, trade workshops have been held in major metro cities and the emirate has also been targeting smaller cities in India.

Global Hotel Alliance reports strong end to first half of 2023

UAE-headquartered Global Hotel Alliance, an alliance of independent hotel brands, has announced strong first half results for 2023, surpassing expectations. Room revenue in its loyalty program saw a year-on-year increase of 122% by the end of the second quarter. The first-half total revenues exceeded $1.2 billion, up 122% from the first half of 2022.

The USA remained the most significant market for international stays in terms of contributing to room revenue. Notably, China’s travel resurgence also made an impact, with its loyalty members generating $40 million in total hotel revenue, a 62% increase compared to first half of 2022 and a 4% increase compared to the same period in 2019. GHA added 21 new hotels to its portfolio in the first half, ranging from luxury beach resorts to urban retreats, with notable debuts in destinations like France, the Middle East, and Australia.

GHA also announced on Tuesday that it is taking its loyalty program, GHA Discovery, to the high seas after entering a landmark partnership with Miami-based cruise line Regent Seven Seas Cruises. This is GHA’s first such partnership with a cruise line.

Sharjah Airport Receives Over 7 Million Passengers in First Half of 2023

Sharjah Airport has experienced significant growth in passenger traffic, with over 7 million passengers passing through its terminals during the first half of 2023, marking a remarkable growth rate of over 24% compared to the same period in 2022.

Flight activity at Sharjah Airport also increased by 14%, with over 46,900 flights recorded during the period. To meet the growing demand, the airport announced the addition of six flight destinations and three air cargo destinations, including Kuala Lumpur, Ufa City, Samara City, Lar, Indore, Bangkok, Houston, Kigali, and Nashik.

The airport also witnessed substantial growth in cargo operations, handling more than 70,000 tons of cargo. Ali Salim Al Midfa, Chairman of Sharjah Airport Authority, expressed the airport’s commitment to exceeding passenger expectations and becoming one of the top regional airports. The ongoing extension of the airport will increase its capacity to accommodate 20 million passengers per year, aligning with the authority’s objective of delivering pioneering services in the aviation and air cargo sectors.

GuestReady Expands Operations to Saudi Arabia

Hospitality and property technology company GuestReady has officially launched in Saudi Arabia, opening an office in Riyadh. The move marks GuestReady’s expansion into its 64th global city and its second office in the Middle East, following its presence in Dubai since 2016. The company sees significant opportunities in Saudi Arabia’s thriving real estate and growing travel and tourism sectors.

With Vision 2030 aiming to attract 100 million tourists annually by 2030, GuestReady aims to support guests, investors, property owners, and the industry as a whole. The Riyadh office will provide property management services to Saudi investors and property owners, leveraging GuestReady’s proprietary platform and property management system, RentalReady. The platform offers an all-in-one solution for managing short-term rentals and includes AI integrations to create personalized itineraries for guests and streamline guest communications.

Mastercard Joins Hands With UAE’s Nirvana Travel

Mastercard and Nirvana Travel and Tourism, a travel and tourism management company in the UAE, have formed an exclusive partnership to offer a unique payment solution to customers booking travel services in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan. This collaboration aims to streamline and ease travel for both corporate and leisure travelers.

Leveraging Mastercard’s advanced technology, the partnership focuses on digitizing the payment experience for consumer and commercial transactions across Nirvana’s value chain. Despite economic challenges, the demand for global leisure travel remains strong, with a significant increase of around 31% in March 2023 compared to the same period in 2019, according to the Mastercard Economics Institute.

Yas Island Witnesses Double Growth in Hotel Occupancy During Eid

Yas Island Abu Dhabi and Saadiyat Island Abu Dhabi were popular destinations during the Eid Al Adha holiday. Yas Island experienced a significant increase in domestic and international visitors, with over 100% growth compared to the previous year. The newly unveiled SeaWorld Yas Island attracted one-third of all guests and Yas Theme Parks experienced a 200% increase in visitors from Gulf countries compared to 2022.

Saadiyat Island saw over 80% hotel occupancy. CEO of Miral Destinations, Mohamed Abdalla Al Zaabi highlighted the islands’ contributions to Abu Dhabi’s economic growth. In June, Yas Mall experienced a 21% increase in footfall compared to the previous year, and its Eid Al Adha campaigns saw significant participation and engagement. Luxury resorts such as St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort, and Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas were popular choices for visitors seeking a luxurious family getaway.

Marriott Seeks to Empower Female Leaders

Marriott International is expanding its Female Leadership Initiative across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, with the recent launch of the program in Jordan. The leadership initiative aims to provide female leaders with a personalized development program to prepare them for the next stage of their career. During the launch event in Amman, 26 female leaders from Marriott properties in Jordan, Kuwait, and Lebanon participated in sessions designed to inspire and empower women in leadership roles.

Source: Marriott

The sessions focused on identifying strengths, building leadership presence, and fostering impactful leadership. Women from various Marriott International properties in Jordan attended the local sessions. Moving forward, participants will develop their individual development plans with the guidance of a dedicated mentor.

They will also have access to networking opportunities, eCornell courses, and engaging discussions with guest speakers. The leadership initiative has been an integral part of Marriott’s inclusive leadership culture since its inception in 2019 and has expanded to multiple countries in the region to support the development of future female leaders.

Bahrain’s Boutique Hotels Construction Begins at Bilaj Al Jazayer

Edamah, the real estate arm of Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company, has announced the start of construction on two hotels, the four-star Avani and the five-star Tivoli, as part of the Bilaj Al Jazayer mix-use development site. The partnership agreement between the Minor Group and Edamah aims to support the growth of Bahrain’s tourism and hospitality sectors.

The real estate company also announced that program at the Bilaj Al Jazayer site, with an investment of Bahraini Dinar 4 million ($10.6 million), is progressing as scheduled. The development is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Edamah, and both hotels are expected to open in 2025. Bilaj Al Jazayer is a 1.3 million square meter sustainable city located on Bahrain’s west coast. It will feature resorts, residential villas and apartments, dining options, offices, retail and entertainment establishments, and a three-kilometer beachfront.

Millennium Hotels Enters Branded Residence Segment in Dubai

Millennium Hotels and Resorts Middle East and Africa (MEA) has partnered with UAE-based GJ Real Estate to develop The Biltmore Sufouh Residences in Dubai. The agreement marks Millennium’s entry into the branded residences segment and aligns with its expansion strategy in key locations. The luxury development, set to open in 2025, will feature 408 one, two, and three-bedroom residences. The development will also include exclusive penthouses on the top six floors known as the Atmosphere Collection.

“We see great potential in the branded residences segment and Dubai is very much at the forefront of the exciting growth of this sector. This latest agreement continues to be in line with our development strategy to focus on expansion in key locations across the region,” said Fahad Abdulrahim Kazim, CEO of Millennium Hotels and Resorts MEA.

Address Hotels Announces Opening of Address Jabal Omar Makkah

Address Hotels and Resorts has announced the opening of Address Jabal Omar Makkah in Saudi Arabia’s Makkah. Situated in Jabal Omar development, the 1484-key hotel is the largest hotel in the Address Hotels and Resorts portfolio and is also the tallest building in Jabal Omar. The hotel is said to be conveniently located near the Holy Kaaba and Al Masjid Al Haram, as well as other significant landmarks.

The hotel features a variety of exquisitely designed accommodations, multiple dining options, a spa and wellness center, and prayer facilities. With its commitment to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, Address Jabal Omar Makkah contributes to the transformation of the country’s tourism landscape. Mark Kirby, head of Emaar Hospitality, called it the preferred choice for those seeking to deepen their spiritual connection.

Jazeera Airways Now Accepts American Express Payments

Kuwaiti low-cost carrier Jazeera Airways has announced it now accepts payments through American Express cards. Jazeera Airways operates an extensive network across 66 destinations in the Middle East, Europe, Central and South Asia, and Africa. Jazeera Airways had announced earlier that it had served almost 4 million passengers in 2022, with a projected target of 10 million passengers by 2028. The airline’s expanding route network, value-focused fares, and excellent service have made it a popular choice among travelers. Accepting American Express payments further enhances the payment choices available to the airline’s customers, said Bharathan Ravindran, vice president — commercial at Jazeera Airways.

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Tags: american express, asia monthly, bahrain, dubai, Global Hotel Alliance, jordan, marriott, Mastercard, middle east newsletter, Middle East tourism, regent seven seas, short-term rentals, thailand, tourism authority of thailand

Photo credit: Thailand aims to attract 400,000 visitors from the Middle East this year. sbaechler / sbaechler on Visual Hunt

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