THE long-awaited shakeout isn’t here yet, but the region’s travel and tourism market has doubtless begun to mature.
Finally, developers and brand leaders are finally seeing the value of going beyond the gold plating to newer markets.
The four-star hotels – tweaked for a Middle Eastern market – are already here, and the economy brands are following suit. Significantly, the 80 new hotels rolling out across the Gulf over the next few years isn’t much at the luxury end of the market (though there’s the odd Armani), but in the budget categories: Accor with new Ibis and Novotel hotels, the Rotana’s Centro in the inner cities, and the InterCon’s new brand, Express by Holiday Inn.
The airlines are following suit: Jazeera Airways is up and away, Air Arabia is going from strength to strength and we’ll soon see a budget airline out of Saudi Arabia. Not everyone wants to be Emirates anymore and the results of this awareness are visible in increased brand differentiation. From no-alcohol hotels to small, regional-focused airlines, we’ll be seeing less me-too economics, and more collaboration. This year will see the launch of Arabesk, an alliance of eight Middle Eastern and North African airlines.
With 68.5 million arrivals across the Middle East in 2020 (WTO figures) we’d better get our act together quick.
Keith J Fernandez