Dubai is a “great learning example” of how a city can overcome the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic on its hospitality sector, experts said at a recent conference.
Speaking at the 2021 Hotel Business Forum, Michel Noblet, executive chairman of ATECA Holding, highlighted the various challenges posed by the global pandemic on the global hospitality industry, and how Dubai had tackled the challenges in a timely and effective manner.
“To overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic, Dubai is a great learning example,” he said. “The emirate has done a fantastic job of developing domestic tourism that jumped nearly 107 per cent in 2020 and continues to grow, while maintaining stringent health and safety protocols. People going on staycation have realised the great benefits of travelling domestically when it comes to saving transportation costs, which leaves a bigger budget to spend on what matters more: the hotel, dining & shopping.”
Looking ahead at the factors that will be essential to recovery, is understanding and responding to changing consumer behaviours, he added. “Hotels need to reimagine the customer experience and re-engage with guests to build and maintain their trust. Safety protocols at hotels will have to be extended beyond fire safety and other standards to be ‘hygienically safe.’ Offering Covid-19 PCR testing service to guests free of charge can be a great advantage in attracting guests. Also, be open to repurposing spaces and creating new revenue streams with segments like workations.”
Lastly, Noblet advised: “We have always been a people’s business, and great service is more important than ever now. It is the right time for owners and management to implement a strong retention strategy and training that sets a foundation for the future.”
According to Euromonitor International, global inbound tourism spending dropped by 57 per cent in 2020, but is expected to rebound by 82 per cent in 2021. In the Middle East, inbound tourism spending for Saudi Arabia is predicted to grow to $33.5 billion by 2025. The UAE’s inbound tourism spend, meanwhile, is expected to top $25.3 billion during the same year.
“In our most pessimistic scenario, spending growth is predicted to rise by 40 per cent in 2021, leading to a more prolonged recovery timeline, returning to pre-crisis levels by 2024,” said Caroline Bremner, head of Travel and Tourism Research at Euromonitor International.
Noblet also announced that ATECA Group’s first hotel, the ATECA Hotel Suites in Tashkent, will open its doors in May 2021. He also highlighted the opportunities that Uzbekistan’s hospitality sector presents. “Tourism is known for its ability to overcome crises and downturns, and Uzbekistan is a country full of potential and unique opportunities. We are proud to announce our first hotel ATECA Hotel Suites set to open in May 2021 in the heart of Tashkent. In addition, we have just opened ATECA Hotel Academy Hub, in collaboration with The American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute, to provide world-class hotel training programmes in Uzbekistan.”
He added: “The pandemic has shown the significant role that the domestic market can play in driving the recovery of the tourism and hospitality industry. With a population of nearly 34 million people, Uzbekistan has great potential to grow domestic tourism. With solid national collaboration, Uzbekistan can double the revenue of the domestic market, while creating new opportunities across the country. Looking ahead, it is important to think out of the box. Also, continued dialogue and the sharing of knowledge and ideas is crucial to the success of the hospitality business.”
Events to be staged at the DWTC, comprising diverse sectors including construction, energy, technology, beauty, food, healthcare, environment and automotive, will mark the emirate’s post-pandemic economic recovery