Skift Take

Dubai Airport has surpassed pre-pandemic levels during the initial half of 2023. However, its projection for the entire year still falls slightly short of 2019 numbers. Call it "cautious optimism."

Series: Middle East Travel Roundup

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Dubai International Airport announced on Tuesday that it served 41.6 million passengers in the first half of this year, exceeding figures for the same period in 2019.

The announcement follows news of Dubai surpassing its pre-pandemic tourism numbers for the first half of 2023, earlier this month.

The airport handled a total of 201,800 flights in the first half, up 13% compared to the same period in 2019. The average number of guests per flight during the first half reached 214 while the load factor was 77%.

Readjusted Forecast: The airport has also readjusted its forecast for the year from 83.6 million guests to 85 million, just 1.6% shy of its annual traffic in 2019.

Source: Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism LinkedIn

Where Are the Passengers Coming From?

  • India (6 million passengers)
  • Saudi Arabia (3.1 million guests)
  • UK (2.8 million)
  • Pakistan (2 million)
  • U.S. (1.8 million)
  • Russia (1.3 million)
  • Germany (1.2 million).

Top City Destinations

  • London (1.7 million)
  • Mumbai (1.2 million)
  • Riyadh (1.2 million)

No Signs of Slowdown: “We started the second half with strong demand in July, and with the ongoing seasonal peak coinciding with the reopening of schools in August, we’re preparing for an exceptionally busy rest of the year,” said Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports.

Visits Saudi Partners with Spanish Football League

Visit Saudi has joined forces with Spanish football league Laliga with the shared objective of showcasing Saudi Arabia as a year-round destination.

What Does the Partnership Entail? Visit Saudi will be the official travel destination and a global sponsor of Laliga. The collaboration aims to bolster Visit Saudi’s efforts to spotlight Saudi Arabia as a fast-growing destination. The underlying aim is to stimulate football-oriented tourism.

Activities for Brand Promotion: A prominent launch event and subsequent engagements, including sponsorships, premium digital content, and immersive consumer events, all aimed at maximizing audience engagement.

Why Laliga? Laliga games is followed by millions of football fans across the kingdom, Saudi football players have played in Spain as well as Spanish players in the Saudi league, and Saudi now has more than six official fan clubs for Laliga teams.

Saudi’s Football Partnerships: Last week, Skift had highlighted Saudi Arabia’s newly launched airline Riyadh Air signing a multi-year partnership with leading Spanish football club, Atlético de Madrid. The report had also mentioned Saudi Tourism Investment Company (ASFAR)’s sponsorship agreement with Al-Hilal Saudi Club, one of Saudi Arabia’s premier football clubs.

Emirates Expands Interline Agreement With Philippine Airlines

Emirates and Philippine Airlines have expanded their interline agreement

What Does the Agreement Entail? The partnership will provide seamless connectivity for passengers to access domestic points in Philippine Airlines’ network via Cebu and Clark, adding to the previously announced interline connections via Manila, using a single ticket and convenient baggage policy.

History: The expansion comes months after Emirates and Philippine Airlines first announced their interline agreement. Emirates has been flying to the Philippines since 1990 and currently operates 25 weekly flights to Manila, Cebu and Clark.

Trivia: With 29 codeshare and 110 interline partners, Emirates’ global footprint encompasses destinations far beyond its own network, offering increased connectivity and convenient options for travellers.

Hilton Appoints Guy Hutchinson as President, Middle East & Africa

Guy Hutchison will be returning to the region in early 2024 as President, Middle East & Africa, for Hilton. Hutchinson returns to Hilton after nearly a decade, having served as both chief operating officer and CEO at Abu Dhabi-based Rotana Hotels & Resorts.

Assuming his new responsibilities in early 2024, Hutchinson will be based in Dubai and will report to Simon Vincent executive vice president and president, Europe, Middle East & Africa.

More on Hutchinson: Hutchinson’s previous experience includes 16 years at Hilton, spanning across the Middle East, Europe, Japan, China, Australia, and India, where he served as vice president of operations until 2014.

Hilton Portfolio: Hilton currently has 285 hotels, either operational or under development, across the Middle East & Africa region, encompassing 11 brands.

More Expansion Into Saudi Arabia: Hilton will be coming up with the Hilton Dammam Airport, its first airport hotel in Saudi Arabia. The hotel company has the largest pipeline market in the Europe Middle East and Africa region in Saudi Arabia.

ATECA Hotel Suites Records ‘Outstanding Performance’

Uzbekistan’s ATECA Hotel Suites has announced “outstanding performance” during the typically low-business summer months, posting an average occupancy rate of 87% from May to July.

Predictions for both August and September remain equally positive, buoyed by ongoing market trends and the hotel’s robust standing. “These outcomes further emphasize the growing allure of Uzbekistan as a prominent and sought-after tourism hotspot,” the hotels sad in a release.

Dubai-based Michel Noblet, the executive chairman of parent company ATECA Holding, said the company has set its sights on expansive plans in Uzbekistan.

The company said in a statement that it is also seeking out prospects to oversee and run hotels, to markedly enhance their financial performance.

Amman Airport Welcomes Over 5 Million Passengers Till July

Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport welcomed 5,380,426 passengers up until July 2023, recording a 28% growth against 2022 figures.

The airport received 45,402 aircraft movements, 17% higher than the figures registered during the same period in 2022.

“Our July traffic outcomes were propelled by our expanding airline and destination networks, as well as by the summer break, Hajj season and Eid al-Adha holiday,” commented Group CEO, Nicolas Claude.

What Skyscanner’s Report on Road Trips Tells Us About UAE Travelers

Around 79% of UAE travelers are likely to hire a car during their next holiday, according to global flight, car hire and hotel price comparison site, Skyscanner.

What Helps Drive Road Trips? As 98% of UAE travellers are open to travelling to alternative or lesser-known destinations, where public transportation might be limited, this has put road trips firmly back in the spotlight for 2023-2024 travel.

Sustainability Factor: The interest in hybrid and electric cars is high. Almost half of the travellers surveyed have hired an electric or hybrid car during a recent holiday, whilst another 50% would consider it.

Top Destinations for Road Trips

  • Middle East
  • Europe
  • Asia

“Despite price being a key consideration for UAE travellers when hiring a car, only a third compare prices from different providers where significant savings can be made,” said Ayoub El Mamoun, Skyscanner travel expert.

Kuwait Airways Cuts Losses by 50%

Kuwait Airways reduced its losses by 50% from KD 107 million (USD 347 million) to KD 55 million (USD 178.4 million) in 2022.

The total passenger revenues reached KD 289.1 million, showing an increase of 11%, even though passenger numbers only increased 2% to reach 3.5 million.

The airline expects passenger numbers to go up to 5.5 million as it now operates to 58 direct destinations with 105 flights per day.

The airline has also extended the lease contract of seven A320 aircraft up to the year 2024, which increases the number of flights and operations to new destinations. It also intends to lease eight Airbus passenger jets within 10 years.

Biltmore Launches Luxury Hotel Apartments in Dubai

Luxury hotel brand Biltmore is set to make its highly-anticipated debut in the Middle East with its first-ever property in Dubai – the Biltmore Sufouh Residence.

The hotel company will be partnering with real estate developer GJ Properties for the Dubai venture.

Opening: Set to open its doors in 2025, the Biltmore Sufouh Residence will feature 480 one, two, and three-bedroom apartments across its 44-floor vertical twirl development.

“We are confident that this development will exceed expectations and further enhance Dubai’s reputation as a premier destination for luxury real estate,” Ali Ghaleb Jaber, CEO of GJ Properties.

The Growing Popularity of Eco Wellness and Adventure Tourism

Although not a novel concept, eco, wellness, adventure and agritourism is gaining traction and attracting more travellers seeking meaningful and eco-friendly adventures in Middle East and Africa, says Colliers’ recent report.

Five Skift Takeways from Colliers’ recent report – Trends, Impacts and the Future of Eco, Wellness, Adventure and Agritourism

  • The report highlights the growing popularity of eco, wellness, adventure and agritourism in secondary cities across Middle East and Africa region.
  • This tourism is characterized by a sustainable model centered around immersive experiences that respect the local surroundings.
  • Emerging tourist hotspots in the Middle East, including countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, are actively developing sustainable eco, wellness, adventure and agritourism.
  • Its success hinges on implementing strict environmental regulations, providing educational programs for tourists, fostering community engagement, and ensuring equitable distribution of economic benefits within the community.
  • The alignment between storytelling, design, service offerings, and ecological initiatives is crucial. To ensure project durability, factors like resource allocation and proper planning at the early stages are vital.

Gates Hospitality Joins Hands With Aussie Startup Frntlne

Hospitality company Gates Hospitality has announced its partnership with Melbourne-based edtech startup Frntlne. Gates is Frntlne’s first client in the Middle East.

With the collaboration Gates looks to reshape the landscape of the hospitality and customer service industries in the UAE while aiming to raise the bar in the UAE hospitality market.

What Does Frntlne Do? Established in 2021, Frntlne looks to involve frontline employees in product-oriented training through the utilization of what it refers to as “TikTok-style” videos. The company crafts videos that are customized to upskill workforces across industries. Frntlne has earlier partnered with retail and consumer brands, including L’Oreal and P&G.

Backed by a consortium of strategic investors, Frntlne’s advisory board includes singing star Beyonce’s father Mathew Knowles.

In CEO Mark John’s words, Frntlne is “building a new way to engage frontline team members and influence buying decisions.”

New Hotel Openings

Emaar Misr inaugurated the new Address Beach Resort Marassi, in Egypt’s North Coast, marking Egypt’s second hotel and resort under the Address Hotels and Resorts brand.

New Appointments

Jumeirah Group has named Rizwan Shaikh as General Manager of Jabal Omar Jumeirah in Makkah, its first hotel to open in Saudi Arabia.


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Tags: dubai international airport, emirates air, jordan, jumeirah, kuwait airways, middle east newsletter, Philippine Airlines, road trips, saudi arabia, skyscanner, sports tourism, uae

Photo credit: Dubai Airport served 41.6 million passengers in the first half of this year. PxHere

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