Summer 2021: A break away from tradition
Summer, which is traditionally seen as a slow period for the hospitality scene in the UAE, might log in record numbers this year, as residents reevaluate their travel plans in the face of continued uncertainty about Covid-19 quarantine rules and flight restrictions at several global destinations.
“Summer, as we all know, is always relatively quiet in the UAE, but with countries like KSA slowly reopening, and with the pent-up demand from many other countries in the GCC, we expect to see a busier period with many tourists coming to Dubai over the summer,” said Stijn Bastiaens, VP and commercial director for the Middle East, Africa, and Turkey regions at Hilton.
He added that a lot of residents are also extremely hesitant to book international vacations or holidays, so this will result in a busier than normal period for many hotels and resorts.
“Staycations will remain a strong segment, and I think that it is not just a matter of people not being able to travel outside the country,” he explained. “I think that they have discovered the staycation option and that they have discovered that Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah have great staycation offerings. Even going to another emirate is an adventure, so the demand from this segment will only continue.”
Asked about new non-traditional markets that have opened up, he identified a strong increase in traffic from countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic. “This is great news for us because the more people that visit the UAE, the more talk there is about how great a destination it is.”
Thomas Grundner, vice president of Sales and Marketing for JA Resorts & Hotels, also highlighted how the UAE will “have opportunities of markets that are still closed.”
“We will get a lot of business from the KSA market for the summer, and we are eagerly waiting for the opening of markets in Europe, particularly the UK, Germany, and France,” he said. “Although we have high temperatures in the summer in Dubai, I believe that people want to get out and spend their vacations, and there aren’t many destinations across the globe that are very safe to travel to such as Dubai and the UAE.”
He also said that he expects the GCC to be a key driver of growth for the remainder of 2021. “We are already seeing the first trends of people looking for places to book in the UAE from KSA. We are focused now on our guest journey, arrival experiences, and guest communication so that they feel safe and that we are up to date on all the latest rules and regulations. The clear learning curve was for us to communicate; the better you communicate, the better the guest appreciates you.”
Haitham Assem, regional director of Sales, Marketing & Communications for the Middle East & Africa at Millennium Hotels and Resorts, revealed that the Millennium brand is still “standing strong”, with a very healthy and solid pipeline of around 11 openings scheduled between this year and the next.
“Over our 20 year history, we have expanded from one brand to 12 brands now in the Middle East and Africa, totalling 17,000 rooms, with 3,000 more scheduled for the next two years,” he said. “We have got what it takes to tap into each and every market and offering, and we remain agile, more than ever.”
Dubai, he says, came up with a “fantastic plan” over the past few months to ensure that the emirate remained on the radar of each and every individual that is looking for a dream destination to travel to.
“While the whole world was in lockdown mode, Dubai ensured that it was welcoming visitors with a very stringent Covid-19 safety plan in place,” he said. “Together, all the players in the hospitality and tourism sector overcame this challenge. Even 2020 was not as bad as many of us were expecting; our hotels remained open and welcomed a number of different travellers and residents for different types of visits such as staycations and workations.”
He added that 2021 is already ramping up. “The first quarter of this year saw a lot of positivity and this will continue, especially with Expo 2020 Dubai coming up in a few months. I always say that the market didn’t perform in a V-shape, it was a U-shape recovery.”
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