x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Travel industry starts looking closer to home

The Dubai Government's travel-services business is looking to expand during the global economic crisis by moving into countries closer to home.

The Dubai Government's travel-services business is looking to expand during the global economic crisis by moving into countries closer to home. Iain Andrew, a vice president of Dnata Travel Service, said people had less money to spend on holidays but would still want at least one a year. "We have an ongoing process of adding two to three countries a year, and this year we will maybe move into two new countries and expand our operation into India," Mr Andrew said.

"However, because of the current financial climate we will have to look harder at the countries' economies to make sure any move we make is a successful move." Mr Andrew said Dnata was looking for partners in several countries and that Vietnam could be ideal. "It's a leisure destination and a growing business destination. But at this point it is difficult to see how these countries will weather the storm, so the process is slowed down as it takes time."

Mr Andrew said the number of flights booked through Dnata had continued to increase this financial year. "Since the world financial crisis started we have had a flurry of business travellers coming into the region. With Christmas round the corner and Eid, people would still want to travel to see their families. "The culture of doing business is very personal here. It is always meetings, unlike other places in the world where you have conference calls. Speaking to airline operators, there is a slight drop in January bookings but it is too early to tell."

The lack of regional trains and buses was another reason people would fly, he said. As for tourism employment growth, Mr Andrew said Dnata is hiring only specialist staff. Raj Bhatt, the director of hospitality career website Hozpitality.com, said GCC nations were adding 240 hotels by 2011, with about 70,000 employees needed. "However, the UAE, which leads the hospitality boom in this region with 133 new hotels, will shrink its recruitment quota by 20 per cent."

The UAE expected to create about 55,000 hospitality jobs in the next four years and, although a loss of jobs is unlikely, low-paid workers would be the first to go. "The credit crunch affects everybody, including the tourism industry, and there will be a slight correction but nothing as major as what we are witnessing with the properties sector," Mr Bhatt said. "If jobs were set to go, it would be your low-paid staff such as cleaners and maids, but senior staff would stay on to work on how to attract more visitors to your resort or hotel."

shafez@thenational.ae