Hotel inquiries spike as Dubai reopens

Published: 7 July 2020 - 11:30 a.m.
By: Josh Corder

To say tourism is big business in Dubai is an understatement, 20% of the emirate’s GDP comes from tourism alone, with less than 1% coming from oil.

Before it started, 2020 was expected to continue this trend, riding off 2019’s all-time high of 16.73 million overnight visitors and US$27.9 billion in tourism spending, according to The Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM).

However, in the wake of the pandemic, the World Tourism Organisation (UNTWO) estimates that tourist arrivals in the Middle East between January and April dropped by as much as 40%.

However, today (July 7), Dubai reopened to tourists and hotel groups in the emirate are already feeling the benefit.

For Dubai’s Jumeirah Group, bookings had already started to creep up before borders reopened. Jumeirah Group chief commercial officer Alexander Lee explained: “Within the first week since it was confirmed, online bookings have doubled in terms of planned stays versus the previous weeks.”

Jumeirah’s recovery also points towards the emirate once again becoming a go-to spot for international tourists. Lee added: “Interestingly, international guests are also increasingly looking to visit in the next three months with over half of the bookings made post the announcement for July, August and September.”

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Radisson Hotel Group echoes similar signs of recovery, revealing to Hotelier Middle East that Dubai’s tourism resumption could boost the group’s remainder of 2020. Radisson Hotel Group cluster GM David Allan manages Radisson Blu Hotel Dubai Waterfront, Radisson Blu Hotel Dubai Canal View and Radisson Resort Ras Al Khaimah. He had this to say: “In our hotels we see the early signs of rooms picking-up and very much expect this continue as we get deeper into July and the remainder of 2020.”

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Minor Hotels, which owns brands such as Anantara and Avani, has seen similar spikes in interest from international guests. Minor Hotels VP of operations MENA Amir Golbarg revealed: “Since Dubai announced it was reopening for tourism, supported by more airlift being confirmed, we have been seeing enquiries from Europe, the majority from the UK and Germany. Avani Deira is also open once again and has seen demand increasing.”

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Marriott is also optimistic. Guido de Wilde, chief operating officer, Middle East, Marriott International says: “The UAE has done an incredible job to safeguard its citizens and residents during this global pandemic and it is fantastic to see Dubai opening up to international visitors once again.

“We are excited to be welcoming back guests and feel optimistic in the desire for travel as we are already witnessing a demand for dining, resort daycations and weekend staycations across our hotel portfolio. We look forward to welcoming tourists again and understand that health and hygiene will be at the forefront of their minds.”

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For Time Hotels, its CEO, Mohamed Awadalla is optimistic but realistic. He told Hotelier Middle East that: “We are aware of the impact COVID-19 has had on the tourism industry globally; it would, therefore, be remiss of me to say it will be business as usual. However, we are cautiously optimistic about the future of the industry in Dubai and look forward to welcoming new and returning international guests to our properties once more."

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InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) shares in Time Hotels' outlook on the industry, believing recovery will be more of a slow-burn'. IHG cluster hotels manager Karim Abdelhamid explained: “With the opening of borders and resumption of tourism activities in Dubai, we have seen good uptake recently and expect further demand in the coming months - however, we believe it will be a gradual recovery."

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Hotel groups in the northern emirate of Ajman anticipate an increase in guests also, as those who fly into Dubai drift towards them. Wyndham Hotels Ajman cluster GM Ravi Santiago shared: “As one of the gateways to global visitors in the northern emirates, the reopening of Dubai to international travellers signifies optimism on the recovery of the tourism sector. Our main focus for Q3 is boosting our share in the local tourism while simultaneously preparing for the upsurge in international visitors in the fourth quarter of 2020.”

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For Dubai’s tourism restart, the emirate has gone to great lengths to reassure guests it is a very safe and hygienic place to stay.

Just days before the tourism resumption, the city received the Safe Travels stamp from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) in recognition of its hygiene. Similarly, hotel groups have been working tirelessly to elevate hygiene to new levels.

For Jumeirah Group, this was the Bureau Veritas Safeguard Label. Lee explained: “Jumeirah Al Naseem was the first hotel in the world to receive the prestigious Bureau Veritas Safeguard Label followed by three of our other Dubai-based luxury hotels and others coming in the pipeline, and we believe this has gone a long way in helping to restore confidence for both domestic and international travellers.”

For Hilton, it has been a company-wide initiative to curb the spread of COVID-19. Hilton president for Middle East, Africa and Turkey Jochem-Jan Sleiffer explained: “Travellers have plenty of Hilton options to choose from and all backed by our global Hilton CleanStay programme which is rolling out across Dubai to provide travellers with enhanced standards of cleanliness during all aspects of their stays with us.” Measures include frequent sanitation, social distancing, temperature checking and implementation of contactless transitions.

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Over at Time Hotels, Awadalla added: “Our main focus in recent months has been implementing new and improved sanitisation protocols which include our company-wide initiative, 'Sanitised & Ready.' This has been created to ensure a safe, healthy, and comfortable stay for all our guests, as well as the wellbeing of all our team members.”

With enhanced hygiene in place, the world’s leading international airline at its disposal and more hospitality and tourism establishments than most of the world, Dubai has put itself in a great position to reaffirm its status as one of the world’s top tourism destinations. In the words of Dubai Tourism: “Dubai’s hotel sector is healthy and this prudent approach prepares the industry for an even stronger resurgence post-COVID-19.”

For Marriott, guest safety is the highest priority. de Wilde adds: “The safety of our customers and associates has and always will be our utmost priority and this pandemic has required us to enhance our exacting standards to an even higher level with new cleanliness protocols for the current circumstances. We are grateful for the long-term trust of our guests and we want them to see and understand what we are doing and why we are doing it - so that when they walk through the doors of any of our hotels, they know we are committed to their health and safety.”

IHG has put immense focus into its cleanliness. Abdelhamid noted: "IHG has a long-established the IHG Way of Clean programme in partnership with Ecolab and Diversey –, which has been supplemented with additional COVID-19 cleanliness-specific guidance, training and information from global bodies and local authorities, consistent with our own very high standards. Additionally, we are proud to have been awarded the prestigious Bureau Veritas Safeguard Label Certificate to ensure guests feel confident in staying with us during these difficult times.”

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