Comment: Time to roll up your sleeves

Hoteliers need to attack the new year with enthusiasm

Opinion, Comment & analysis, Operators

It has been a difficult year, in more ways than one. Global and regional geopolitics and economic situations notwithstanding, there have been professional and personal setbacks for many people I know. In the hospitality industry, the industry has had to deal with a number of concerns, some of which we have outlined in our annual forecast feature.

Some of these included falling rates, undercutting, oversupply, and so on. However, it is always impressive to see the resilience of the people who work in this sector, and their quick thinking when it comes to dealing with anything that comes their way.

While one of our columnists, Louise Oakley, has listed her top three issues that she thinks hoteliers and owners have to deal with in the year to come, I will also try my hand at certain predictions for the year ahead — much like Martin Kubler’s digital forecast.

The hospitality sector has accepted the consequences of the fall of the rouble and worked admirably to offset any loss with either making it attractive for those Russians who can still afford to travel to this region, or looking at alternative source markets. Our polled hoteliers in the forecast feature, and certainly through other conversations, have confirmed intra-GCC travel is big, along with the Chinese market. India is definitely looking up, although many are looking at that market filling up the mid-market properties with families — and why not, what with the theme parks, which will, I believe, show concrete results in 2017 when it comes to bolstering tourism numbers.

New brands will enter the region. I found out, just before going to print, that R Hotels’ The Palm Dubai property, for example, will be an MGallery by Sofitel. Fantastic news for the UAE — not only will it be the first of its brand in the country, but also the first health and wellness resort, and the first four-star resort on the sub-market which is The Palm Dubai. More as we have it later this year.

Marriott International introduced its flagship brand to UAE’s capital, with the first Marriott Hotels and Marriott Executive Apartment brands in Abu Dhabi, and is also set to open its first Edition hotel in this region with the Edition Abu Dhabi in 2017. However, Marriott International president MEA Alex Kyriakidis was quick to caution that it’s not the case of launching brands for the sake of it. He told Hotelier it was important to maximise the existing brands rather than add to the regional portfolio, unless it made sense otherwise. He also said that only if the operator sees “scale that can support the entry of a new brand” will it look at launching it into the market.

There will also be a continued focus on technology and apps, and points of differentiation that have caught on elsewhere are sure to land in this region on a large scale. For example, keyless entry, online check-in to a hotel like you would with an airline, and so on.

Boutique is big. And it’s only getting bigger — especially in this region. While consistency with big hotels and large chains are to be valued, the new traveller (avoiding the m-word!) really appreciates boutique properties because these hotels give them the feeling of personalisation and being more connected with the property. Think Autograph Collection, Hotel Indigo, and Curio Collection — all of which are coming to this region, I might add, also reflecting on my point about new brands dipping their toes over here.

There is really a lot to look forward to in 2017 and beyond, and our pipeline report only confirms that.

So, hoteliers, roll up your sleeves and get ready for what I think will be a very exciting year ahead.

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