Comment: The state of hospitality in the UAE

The country's seven emirates have diverse offerings in their tourism and hospitality portfolios. Richie Santosdiaz an economic development expert takes a closer look at each of them

Richie Santosdiaz
Richie Santosdiaz

According to Travel and Tourism Economic Impact 2017 by the World Travel and Tourism Council, the total contribution of the travel and tourism sector to the UAE’s gross domestic product (GDP) was AED 159.1 billion ($43.3 billion USD) which is 12.1% of GDP. It is forecast to rise by 4.9% per annum to AED 264.5 billion ($72 billion USD) which would be 12.4%of GDP in 2027. Clearly, tourism is a major contributor to the national economy and is a priority for future economic growth.

Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi In 2016 had 4,440,314 guests stay in hotels in the emirate, which was 8% more than the previous year. Its aspiration to be a cultural tourism hub is paying off, as it recently inaugurated the Louvre Abu Dhabi only in November last year, which is further sparking interest from tourists in the GCC and the world. Abu Dhabi hotel guests surged 15.2% in February this year, with interest in particular from Chinese visitors; Abu Dhabi the emirate still aims to have 8.5 million visitors by 2021.

According to its website, the Department of Tourism Development in Ajman aims to raise the number of hotel guests to some 700,000 annually, and book approximately 2.2 million guest hotel nights by end of this year, an increase of 64%. They also aim to boost the emirate’ hotel occupancy rate of 80% by 2021 to meet the goals of Ajman Vision 2021, reported by Emirates news agency WAM.

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According to a report by real estate agents Knight Frank, comparing Dubai to global cities, Dubai has seen the sharpest rise in hotel rooms over the past decade among global hubs including London and Paris, which shows the emirate’s tourist market continuing to boom. Tourism’s contribution to Dubai’s gross domestic product has jumped 138% over the past decade and the number of those employed in the business rose 119% in the same period.

The number of tourists visiting Fujairah rose to more than 800,000 in 2018, according to reservations at the emirate's 36 hotels. According to Saeed Al Samahi, director-general of the Fujairah Tourism and Antiquities Authority, said that the authority aims to advance the emirate’s tourism sector this year, as per the directives of ruler Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi.

Ras Al Khaimah
Ras Al Khaimah, which aimed to have one million visitors in the emirate by the end of last year, is making headlines. First, it made headlines when it opened the world’s longest zip line at Jebel Jais Mountain, which for those, in particular the adventurous type, found to be unique.
The emirate hosted the Arabic Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) from 9-11 April 2019, which is, according to its website, the Middle East's premier annual meeting place for the region's most senior hotel investors, developers, operators and advisors. AHIC is under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, and founding patron, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum.

Other emirates to mention include Sharjah, which welcomed 1.8 million guests into its accommodation sector in 2018, which is 17% more than the previous year. Sharjah Tourism Vision 2021 aims to attract more than 10 million tourists by 2021, with a focus on four pillars, one of which is promoting Sharjah as an ideal family tourism destination by offering distinct packages and offers specially designed for families; another is promoting the cultural and heritage elements among families to build Sharjah as an international cultural hub.

Umm Al Quwain
The emirate also is interested in tourism as it has its blessed natural beauty (particularly its coastline and mangroves) but also entertainment facilities that can cater to a wide range of needs. For instance, they have Dreamland Aqua Park, the UAE's largest water park and resort attracts several visitors. Umm Al Quwain’s new vision was launched last year that revolves around a sustainable economy to deliver high quality of life for a cohesive community. The vision is based on five pillars: A diverse and sustainable economy, community cohesion, an attractive tourism environment, an outstanding infrastructure and an innovative government.

Richie Santosdiaz is an economic development expert. He is currently head of strategy for Dubai-based consulting firm, Rise Group ME.

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