Source market

For hotel companies and properties in the region, visitors from the GCC still make up the largest chunk of guests at 79.49%, with higher amounts of dispensable money and access to travel in the Middle East and North Africa region. They are followed by European travellers, who make 76.92% of the hotel guests among the hotels operated by the respondents. Travellers from the wider region, such as Lebanon and Jordan, make up 46.15%. Growing inbound visitors from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Russia accounted for 28.21% and as mentioned earlier, visitors from China and India are growing year-on-year. 

The number of Chinese tourists travelling to the GCC is expected to increase 81% from 1.6 million in 2018 to 2.9 million in 2022, according to data published ahead of Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2019.

The latest research from Colliers International, in partnership with ATM 2019, reveals that the GCC countries currently attract just 1% of China’s total outbound market. However, positive trends are expected over the coming years as 400 million Chinese tourists are expected to go abroad in 2030 – up from 154 million in 2018.

Premier Inn Ibn Battuta Mall general manager John Raffoul says his hotel is working with Dubai Tourism (DTCM) to attract and target the emirate’s top source markets. “We work hand in hand with DTCM and support their initiatives. We focus on what is relevant to each hotel’s business module and target markets accordingly including Dubai’s top source market - India, China, Saudi Arabia, and the Far East. We are also working on attracting more families and leisure travellers across the globe, as Dubai offers an incredible range of leisure attractions such as Dubai Parks & Resorts, IMG World of Adventure, Ibn Battuta Mall, Burj Khalifa, and many others which our guests can enjoy, and are incorporated into our sales tactics,” he explains.

Besides the existing source markets in the region, Chowdhury reveals she’s targeting other growing markets, too. “We are trying to target the growing numbers of visitors from Africa and Latin America, in addition to all the other markets that are well established in the area.”

Challenges

In the survey, when asked what general managers expect in terms of the biggest hurdles affecting hotel performance in the next 12 months, respondents listed increased competition, political instability, rising inflation, staff retention, recruitment and training, and taxes such as the recently implemented Value Added Tax (VAT) as the top concerns. Rising utility costs, possible renovations, securing return on investment, and for some respondents, slowing economy and lack of government support as well as political instability were major causes for concern.

“Finding, recruiting and retaining the right talent is one of the challenges we face every day, as well as developing and growing our talent to ensure the ultimate guest satisfaction. The second challenge is managing overall property expenses and revenue, and looking at how we can maximise all resources for better, efficient and more profitable outcomes,” Raffoul explains.

With pressure to show return on investment to owners and maintain profits, Lund notes that general managers will have to focus on cost saving measures to ensure healthy figures.

“It’s natural for existing hotels to see a compression in revenues over the next year due to new supply, and GMs will therefore have to be creative with their cost saving measures to ensure owner returns remain stable while the guest experience is not impacted,” he states.

Chowdhury also notes that “transparency” is also key for healthy relations with owners. She says: “I think the most critical aspect is trust. As GM it’s very important that we safeguard the asset that has been entrusted to us and deliver the expected financial targets. It is crucial to maintain transparency and make decisions for the hotel that delivers best performance.”

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