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UAE gets a head start with winter tourism drive

Issac John /Dubai
issacjohn@khaleejtimes.com Filed on December 13, 2020
People enjoying themselves at Ski Dubai, located in Mall of the Emirates.- Alamy Image

The other GCC countries have also taken various efforts aimed at ensuring a speedy post-Covid recovery for their languishing hospitality industry.

With its latest initiative to kick-start the domestic tourism during winter, the UAE has gained a head start to regain its appeal as the most sought-after holiday destination in the region.

Must Read: Sheikh Mohammed invites world to experience UAE’s winter

The other GCC countries have also taken various efforts aimed at ensuring a speedy post-Covid recovery for their languishing hospitality industry, analysts have said.

To encourage local tourism and promote its desert winters, the UAE has launched “The Most Beautiful Winter in the World” programme, while Oman has rolled out a 10-day free visa campaign to woo tourists from 103 countries.

Winter in UAE: Discover the country’s hidden gems

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on Saturday launched a UAE Strategy for Domestic Tourism aimed at developing a comprehensive scheme to regulate the local tourism sector in collaboration with the relevant local and federal entities.

He revealed a new unified tourism identity, as part of the UAE Nation Brand, to establish the country's status as an "ideal tourist destination locally and globally, and to share its inspiring story with the world."

World’s coolest winter in UAE: 7 must-visit spots from 7 emirates

As the region’s most vibrant tourist hot spot, the UAE drew 21.4 million holiday makers in 2018, of which Dubai accounted for more than 16 million visitors.

The winter tourism drive, which is part of UAE’s strategy to double domestic tourism’s Dh41 billion contribution to the economy, seeks to re-energize the struggling hospitality sector.

According to preliminary data and analysis from Smith Travel Research(STR), the key hotels in the UAE have reached or surpassed 50 per cent occupancy as winter began.

In the week ending on December 6, Abu Dhabi (69 per cent) Ajman (66.5 per cent) and Dubai (65.8 per cent) experienced the highest occupancy levels in the country. Fujairah (62.4 per cent), Sharjah (53.9 per cent) and Ras Al Khaimah (52.5 per cent) also showed continued week-to-week performance improvement.

Oman, on the other hand, is hoping to give a multi-pronged lifeline to its aviation, tourism and hospitality sectors to shore up its struggling economy. As per the new drive, visitors to Oman must have a confirmed hotel reservation, health insurance and a return ticket. Driven by strong domestic and slowly picking international demand, the key hotel markets in the UAE have reached or surpassed 50 per cent occupancy, according to preliminary data and analysis from STR.

In the week ending on 6 December, Abu Dhabi (69 per cent) Ajman (66.5 per cent) and Dubai (65.8 per cent) experienced the highest occupancy levels in the country. Fujairah (62.4 per cent), Sharjah (53.9 per cent) and Ras Al Khaimah (52.5 per cent) also showed continued week-to-week performance improvement.

“Despite the prevalence of Covid-19 pandemic, tourism remains a significant long-term opportunity for GCC countries and Egypt.

Governments must undertake a multi-step journey to systematically strengthen their tourism offerings and take advantage of the long-term opportunity the sector represents once the region emerges from the current disruption,” analysts at a leading think tank said.

Analysts at Strategy & Middle East, part of PwC added that by developing tourism systematically, the GCC countries have the opportunity to build thriving global tourism destinations in the Middle East that contribute to their economies and create jobs.

They argue that to develop the tourism sector rapidly and establish themselves as a major force in the global tourism market, governments need to embark on a five-step journey, starting with defining their vision for tourism in the country.

“Saudi Vision 2030 is an excellent example of this: it clearly delineates plans to offer multiple tourism products and experiences, with a clear goal of increasing the number of domestic and international tourists to 100 million per year by 2030 and boosting tourism’s contribution to GDP from 3 per cent in 2018 to 10 per cent,” said Karim Abdallah, a partner with Strategy & Middle East.

A second stage in the journey is institutionalizing effective tourism sector governance and ensuring that all public and private stakeholders are synchronizing efforts towards the successful implementation of the tourism vision. Third, countries in the region must identify the travelers that are most likely to be attracted to their offerings, segmented by source markets and socioeconomic profiles, Strategy & Middle East said in a report.

“The UAE and Egypt, for example, have diversified offerings that attract visitors from a diverse set of countries. Knowing that there is a rise in tourists from the Far East will allow countries to take action to cater to that segment,” said Marwan Bejjani, another partner with Strategy & Middle East.

“Countries in the GCC and Egypt are at different levels of destination readiness in many areas, which can give an indication of where efforts need to be directed. When it comes to tour services, for example, well-established tourism destinations such as Egypt and the UAE have a large number of heritage and cultural offerings. Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, have the opportunity to intensify their offerings in this aspect,” said Dima Sayess, director of Ideation Centre, a think-tank of Strategy & Middle East.

issacjohn@khaleejtimes.com

author

Issac John

Editorial Director of Khaleej Times, is a well-connected Indian journalist and an economic and financial commentator. He has been in the UAE's mainstream journalism for 35 years, including 23 years with Khaleej Times. A post-graduate in English and graduate in economics, he has won over two dozen awards. Acclaimed for his authentic and insightful analysis of global and regional businesses and economic trends, he is respected for his astute understanding of the local business scene.





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