Hotels across the UAE can expect to close 2021 on a positive note due to pent-up travel demand, from both the regional and international market, which will result in healthy hotel occupancies, hospitality experts said the Arabian Travel Market 2021 (ATM 2021) exhibition.
In addition, hospitality experts said that the positive momentum from 2021 will carry over into 2022, with hotel brands possibly returning to pre-Covid-19 figures in the last quarter of the year if international travel restrictions continue to be steadily lifted.
Mark Kirby, head of Hospitality, Emaar Hospitality Group, said that a combination of factors such as the UAE’s dedicated vaccination drive, popular staycation offers, easing quarantine rules, and the opening of key international travel corridors have all resulted in a good start to the year.
“2021 is a year of recovery for Emaar Hospitality Group,” he told Khaleej Times. “Our results for Q1 this year have exceeded expectations, driven mainly from our staycation segment. The second quarter of 2021 is showing similar results, and both Q3 and Q4 are important because that is when we have the run up to Expo 2020 Dubai and the UAE’s Golden Jubilee celebrations. So, I think that the remainder of this year will be us focused on the staycation segment, and working with various countries that are slowly opening up again, such as the KSA market.”
Kirby added: “As we move into 2022, I think that the positive results of the staycation segment will be complimented by the opening of international travel,” he added. “The last quarter of 2021 and into 2022 will be all about revenge tourism; people will really want to move now and travel abroad. We are already seeing travellers going for short breaks to destinations that they are able to go to and return easily.”
However, he urged brands to be cautious about how they approach the second half of 2021, especially for the influx of international visitors coming in for the Expo 2020 Dubai event. “This year is going to be a solid year for us, but we have to be cautious as we approach Q3 and Q4; and 2022 will be all about working with countries as they open up for business. We at Emaar Hospitality are very excited about Expo 2020 since we are the official hospitality partner for the event, as well as the only authorised ticket resellers.”
“We have been working very diligently with the Expo 2020 team for many years now, and we look forward to welcoming visitors to the event at our hotels and attractions. Rove Expo 2020 is well positioned at the Expo site, and that will result in a very good last quarter for us. I am also very excited about the UAE’s 50th Golden Jubilee celebrations.”
Raki Phillips, CEO of the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, said that 2021 is just as challenging as 2020, but that he is cautiously optimistic about the industry right now.
“However, when I say that we are being cautious, it is only because there is still a great deal of uncertainty that we are dealing with,” he explained. “This uncertainty comes from when other parts of the world will open. We have plans set for every single country as it opens, but look at what happened with India. The country is a key source market for the UAE both from a tourism and business perspective. And then you have the KSA market that has been closed for the Eid vacation; and there is the situation with the UAE not being on the UK’s green list despite such a successful vaccination drive. These are situations that you can’t predict and have to continuously monitor.”
Going into 2022, he said that the domestic market will continue to be a key factor for Ras Al Khaimah’s tourism sector. “Visitors have discovered Ras Al Khaimah, they have fallen in love with it, and will continue to want to explore more of it. So, the domestic market won’t fall behind in 2022, and the only thing that will happen is that the international market will grow and balance out the equation. Tourism into the UAE makes up 12 per cent of our GDP, so it is a big driver for us and the majority of it comes from the international market.”
Similarly, Laurent A. Voivenel, SVP of operations and development for Emea and India, and SVP of Group HR and Talent Development at Swiss-Belhotel International, said that 2021 is still going to be a tough year for the industry.
“Yes, it is a year of recovery, but it is also a year of danger if we recover too fast. If we ease protocols too fast then we will end up in a situation like some countries that have had to impose lockdowns again and nobody wants that. People want to travel again, they want to return to a sense of normality in their lives, but not at the risk of putting themselves and their families in danger,” he elaborated.
“One of the silver linings of this pandemic has been that every single country has realised that they have a very good domestic tourism market,” he added. “Some of us have ignored the importance of the internal market and when you have nothing else, you realise that the internal market is a great thing to have. Is the internal market as profitable as the external market? No, but at the moment they are vital because they are helping the hotel industry pay their bills.”
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