Analyst urges UAE hoteliers to focus on emerging markets

Hotels to turn to untapped territories as number of visitors from traditional countries falls

Visitors at last year's ATM.
Visitors at last year's ATM.
ATM's Mark Walsh.
ATM's Mark Walsh.
HH Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum visits the Atlantis stand
HH Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum visits the Atlantis stand

Hotel occupancy is down but the UAE’s travel and tourism sector is in an excellent position to weather the economic downturn, according to an expert at a “leading” consumer market analyst firm.

However, Euromonitor International’s global tourism and travel manager, Caroline Bremner, warned that the country needed to shift its focus in terms of customer appeal.

“Despite the Middle East being one of the fastest growth regions in the world – not just economically but for travel and tourism – it is not immune to the global economic and financial crisis which has unfolded over 2007 and 2008,” she commented.

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Bremner also said that it was vital that the UAE’s tourism bodies continued to shift their focus away from traditional source strongholds and towards other markets, such as China and Brazil, where a growing middle class offers as-yet-untapped demand.

Figures from Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTMC) claim that visitors arriving from Europe, Russia and the Americas during the first six months of 2008 fell by 17%, 16% and 26% respectively, but Bremner believes that these declines are temporary.

“Dubai, as a mature destination, will continue to focus on diversifying its offerings to attract new segments, such as budget travelers and new source countries. Up-and-coming Abu Dhabi will continue to invest in its differentiated offer, appearing more regularly on international itineraries. The future for travel and tourism looks less gloomy for the country as a whole,” she explained.

“Airlines like Emirates are offering discounts and budget hotel operators like Centro, Express by Holiday Inn and Premier Inn are gaining ground in the accommodation sector, with easyHotel set to start operations later this year,” she added.

“The rise of Islamic hotels such as Rayhaan will also appeal to GCC visitors.”

Bremner will be giving her views on the region’s industry at Arabian Travel Market 2009, the travel and tourism exhibition taking place in Dubai in May, and Arabian Travel Market’s group exhibitions director Mark Walsh admitted that the issue of the global economic situation would be a priority at this year’s event.

“The current financial climate and its effects on the tourism and travel industry make the 2009 edition of Arabian Travel Market one of the most relevant and important to date. We’re striving to attract industry analysts such as Euromonitor International to give our visitors the most up-to-date and essential information,” he said.
 

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