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Global hotel pulse: Middle East/Africa news
May 29 2013

Included in this roundup of news from the Middle East/Africa region: Qatar plans $5.5-billion floating island; global arrivals to UAE reach 11 million; and e-commerce continues to evolve. each week features a news roundup from a different region of the world. Today’s review covers Middle East/Africa.

March performance
The Middle East/Africa region reported positive performance results during April 2013 when reported in U.S. dollars, according to data compiled by STR Global, sister company of

The region reported a 3.4% increase in occupancy to 65.7%, a 0.7% increase in average daily rate to $171.29 and a 4% increase in revenue per available room to $112.46.

March pipeline
The Middle East/Africa hotel development pipeline comprises 492 hotels totaling 120,345 rooms, according to the April 2013 STR Global Construction Pipeline Report. The total active pipeline data includes projects in the in construction, final panning and planning stages but does not include projects in the pre-planning stage.

Among the chain-scale segments, the upper-upscale segment, with 37,053 rooms, accounted for the largest portion of rooms in the total active pipeline with 30.8% of the region’s rooms.

Qatar plans $5.5b floating island
Qatar unveiled plans to build a $5.5-billion island off the coast of Doha with floating hotels to house soccer fans expected to flock to the country for the World Cup in 2022, according to Hotelier Middle East.

Plans for Oryx Island, which would feature luxury villas, a water park and five floating hotels using cruise ships, were unveiled by Qatari developer Barwa Real Estate, part-owned by Qatar's sovereign wealth fund.

The hotels would be able to house as many as 25,000 soccer fans, Barwa's Chief Executive Abdulla al-Subaie said at the sidelines of a real estate conference in Doha.

Global arrivals to UAE reach 11 million
Global arrivals to the United Arab Emirates increased in 2012, reaching an estimated 11 million tourists, according to delegates at the WTM Vision Conference-Dubai.

More than eight million visitors went to Dubai and about two million to Abu Dhabi. Egypt recorded 18% growth in 2012, although arrival numbers are still far from the 14 million recorded in 2010.

Performance of inbound trips to the Middle East region was down 5% last year because of the decline of arrivals to those countries (Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Syria) hit by the Arab Spring, which took place in 2011. Saudi Arabia made up the top source market for inbound tourism, with 1.5 million tourists.

E-commerce evolves in Middle East
With a young population, active tourism and a growing hotel market, the Middle East region is relying on e-commerce to open its borders to a more diverse set of global and domestic travelers.

E-commerce in the Middle East region has shown a few strong years after 2010, growing two to three times every year since, said Emmanuel Durou, telecommunications, media and technology director at Deloitte in the Middle East. In Dubai, 60% of booking and ticketing comes from e-commerce, he said.

A key indicator influencing online travel and e-commerce is a young population, where 44% of people in the region are younger than 20 years old; in Saudi Arabia the number is as high as 50%, according to Mona Faraj, PhoCusWright research analyst, Middle East, during the market research company’s recent webinar “The Middle East Online Travel Marketplace.”

UAE struggles to attract local hospitality talent
Key industry professionals, government officials and academics recently gathered to discuss the existing skills gaps within the United Arab Emirates’ tourism and hospitality industry during a panel event facilitated by Dubai International Academic City.

The industry continues to be perceived as an unsuitable profession among the local population. Research from Deloitte, which surveyed 24,000 students from the emirates, China, India, South African and Nigeria, revealed a clear skills gap in the industry.

The panel concluded that hospitality’s label as an “unsuitable” profession among Emiratis would be difficult to change and that locals’ perception of hotels as a “place to drink” was a key reason why travel and tourism courses in the United Arab Emirates struggled to attract students.

Tourism rises in Egypt
The number of tourists visiting Egypt increased during the first four months of 2013, but analysts say the sector is still suffering from the aftermath of the country’s 2011 uprising.

The number of travelers visiting Egypt in the first four months of 2013 rose 11.8% from a year earlier, after falling by one-third in the year after the uprising. About 4 million tourists visited Egypt in the first four months of 2013, and tourism revenue rose 16.2% to approximately $3.4 billion.

Some 11.5 million tourists visited the country last year, up from 9.8 million in 2011 but down from 14.7 million in 2010, the last full year before the revolt.

Burj Al Arab to issue guests gold iPads
Burj Al Arab, one of the world’s ultra-luxury hotels, last week introduced 24-carat gold plated iPads for its in-house guests to access services. It has also introduced iMacs in suites.

Deals and developments

  • Courtyard by Marriott opened its first property in Saudi Arabia, a 286-room hotel in Riyadh’s Diplomatic Quarter. The brand has hotels in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.
  • Al Farida Investment Company will renovate and convert the Abu Dhabi Al Maqta hotel in the United Arab Emirates and convert it to the Hilton Abu Dhabi Capital Grand. The 281-room converted hotel will open this summer. The property is Hilton’s second in Abu Dhabi, joining the 327-room Hilton Abu Dhabi, a beachfront hotel along the Arabian Gulf.
  • Kerzner International Holdings Limited, the developer and operator of luxury resorts and hotels, signed a deal to develop and operate a new One&Only resort in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The 150-room Red Sea resort is the first One&Only in Saudi Arabia and offers a extensive meeting space, a health spa, and dining and retail components for business and leisure travelers.
  • Skai Holdings, the Dubai-based real estate investment firm, unveiled plans for its new $1-billion, 481-room hotel and 221-room residences project on the Palm Jumeirah, Dubai. The development will be operated by Viceroy Hotel and Resorts. Construction has begun, with completion slated for the last quarter of 2016.
  • InterContinental Hotels Group signed an agreement with Dyafah Al Mutahida to open a 200-key Staybridge Suites in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia—the first Staybridge Suites property in Saudi Arabia.
  • Swiss-Belhotel has signed an agreement with Abdullah Al Jumaiah Group for a hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The 126-room Swiss-Belhotel Riyadh is due to open in September 2014. This is the group’s second signing in Saudi Arabia.

Compiled by the editorial staff.

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