Dubai preps for 2020, other emirates see increased development

Andaz Capital Gate Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi opened the Middle East's first Andaz in November. Photo credit: Hyatt Hotels Corporation

Dubai's Expo 2020 is getting closer, and the emirate is looking to have 132,000 guestrooms by the end of 2019 and 164,000 by the time the festivities get underway. Other emirates in the UAE also are seeing increased interest from developers,

"There are a lot of hotel openings scheduled in 2019 and we expect tourism to grow by 5 percent to 6 percent during the year," Olivier Harnisch, CEO of Emaar Hospitality Group, told local paper the Khaleej Times. "Right now, everybody is preparing for Expo 2020. The big change that we will see in the industry will be a more noticeable shift toward new markets; the Chinese, Indian and Russian markets will continue to be important in the coming months. Dubai is the fourth most-visited city in the world and moving forward, we can safely say that we have great ambitions for the hospitality sector." 

According to STR, the UAE as a whole got approximately 8,000 new branded hotel rooms last year. Hotel supply is poised to increase by 13.3 percent in Dubai, with a compound annual growth rate of 10.2 percent in occupied room nights reaching 35.5 million annually in 2019.

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Still, not all of the development is spread out evenly among the emirates. As of November, Dubai had a pipeline with 169 hotels and 50,420 rooms, while Abu Dhabi had 20 hotels and 5,058 rooms, and Ash-Shariqah had 18 hotels with 2,671 rooms in its pipeline. 

Beyond Dubai

This is not to say all developers are focused exclusively on Dubai. Other emirates are seeing increased interest from developers, and local governments are taking steps to attract new deals. In December, Ras Al Khaimah’s Tourism Development Authority launched a three-year strategy that aims to diversify the emirate’s tourism platform and attract broader demographics. The Destination Strategy 2019-2021 expects to accelerate foreign and local investments in the tourism sector while nurturing small- and medium-size tourism-related businesses. 

Most notably, the emirate is planning to add 5,000 guestrooms to its existing supply of 6,500, bringing in brands like Marriott, Mövenpick, Sheraton, Anantara, Rezidor, InterContinental and Conrad over the next three years. (The first Conrad is slated to open in 2022.)

“As our tourism offering evolves in Ras Al Khaimah, we must ensure our destination is attractive to travelers who wish to explore beyond the resorts and hotels,” RAKTDA CEO Haitham Mattar told local news site Arabian Business. “With the new destination strategy, we aim to diversify and enhance visitors’ experiences through differentiated product development.”

Abu Dhabi, meanwhile, got two new Radisson Blu hotels last week, the Middle East's first Andaz in November and the first Edition in October. 

Looking Ahead

Dubai's tourism goals won't end with the Expo. The emirate's revised Tourism Strategy is reportedly looking to bring in 21 million to 23 million visitors by 2022, and 23 million to 25 million visitors by 2025.

Helal Almarri, director-general of Dubai Tourism, told the Khaleej times that the CVB was on track to meet its goals by 2025. 

"The great thing about Dubai is that there is good cooperation between the public and private sectors," said Emaar's Harnisch. "The infrastructure is there and the appeal of the city is growing; we are in really good shape to be the most attractive city in the world."

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