x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Wave builds for Dubai hospitality

When the hotel industry decides it is time to launch an underwater hotel, you know the tide has turned. Dubai's tourism industry showed signs of renewed confidence last week at the Arabian Travel Market.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - May 3, 2012. The Paramount Hotels and Resorts pavilion at the Arabian Travel Market exhibition. ( Jeffrey E Biteng / The National )
Dubai, United Arab Emirates - May 3, 2012. The Paramount Hotels and Resorts pavilion at the Arabian Travel Market exhibition. ( Jeffrey E Biteng / The National )

When the hotel industry decides it is time to launch an underwater hotel, you know the tide has turned.

Dubai's tourism industry showed signs of renewed confidence last week at the Arabian Travel Market, one of the world's biggest events for the sector.

New announcements about underwater hotels and strong growth in Dubai's tourism numbers fuelled optimism at the event, despite concerns about weakness in Europe's economy and continued unrest elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa.

"In general, when you talk to people, the mood is good, people are more upbeat [and] business is picking up," said Frederic Bardin, the senior vice president at Emirates Holidays.

"Obviously there are still issues in Europe and in a lot of the world. But in Dubai I think things have stabilised, so people are more optimistic about the future," he added.

Mr Bardin noted that with some 150 airlines flying to the emirate, and serving 220 different destinations, even if one side is down, another one picks up.

"There are a lot more Chinese guests than before, " he said.

"Last year was probably one of the more difficult years."

Expansion by airlines and growth in the numbers of tourists from emerging markets helped Dubai to report a 9 per cent growth in hotel guest numbers in the first quarter, according to data from the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing.

The positive sentiment was also echoed by most of the luxury hoteliers at this week's Arabian Travel Market.

"It has been busy and spirits have been very good," said Pascal Duchauffour, the area vice president for Ritz-Carlton in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

"If we look at the market in general [in] 2011 we had a good year as a brand.

"Overall, 2011 was positive coming out of 2010 and this has been reinforced in the first quarter.

"We feel very upbeat about what's happening in the market in general." Hotel companies are continuing to launch their operations in the region.

Meliá Hotels, based in Spain, opened its first hotel in the region in Dubai on Sunday.

"We just signed a second property in Dubai," said Gabriel Escarrer Jaume, the chief executive of Meliá Hotels.

"I believe there's a lot of potential. Also, it's very important for us to increase our brand awareness as a potential for a feeder market.

The company is aiming to increase clientele from the Middle East to its hotels in London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Barcelona and Latin America. Mr Jaume said any further weakness in Europe's economy would have some impact.

"Holidays are a must," said Mr Jaume.

"So perhaps the people will decrease the number of days. Rather than being one week or 10 days, they'll stay for five days. But they will still go for holidays."

New brands are also setting up in region.

Paramount Hotels and Resorts, which is based on the film company brand, launched this week at the Arabian Travel Market.

The new hotel company, which has yet to sign up management agreements, is based in Dubai.

"The signs are very positive in Dubai," said Thomas van Vliet, the chief executive of Paramount Hotels and Resorts.

Hotels.com, which is part of Expedia, has reported a surge in bookings out of the region recently.

"It's a great market for us," said Cyril Ranque, the senior vice president of global market management at Expedia.

"Expedia is continuing to invest in the region," he added.

"Our team is expanding here and we're continuing to see very good growth."

 

rbundhun@thenational.ae

 

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