Kuwait beckons tourists


Kuwait is stepping up its efforts to increase visitor arrivals and diversifying its visitor profile, says a hotel industry survey.

The Kuwait Tourism Services Company (KTSC) is promoting the country in both regional and overseas markets as part of this effort to boost tourism to the country, the Andersen Hotel Industry Benchmark Survey carried out before the September 11 attacks in the US, said.

"Whilst corporate and government business remain the mainstay of the hotel industry, the KTSC in co-operation with the Kuwait Hotels Association, Kuwait Airlines, the Ministry of Information and other industry stakeholders, is set to diversify Kuwait's visitor profile, targeting the conference, weekend-break and retail tourist sectors," it said.

"With the mix of entertainment and shopping on offer during the Hala February shopping festival, combined with its pearl-diving heritage and sandy beaches, Kuwait is repositioning itself as a mainstream tourism alternative.

"Officials reported that Hala February 2000 improved February visitation by five per cent when compared to the inaugural festival in 1999.

"To capitalise on increased awareness, further easing of visa restrictions is required to stimulate tourist visitation.

"A pilot government initiative to allow hotels and airlines to issue visas directly is a step in the right direction but currently falls short of the more streamlined entry facilities offered by other Gulf destinations."

The survey also pointed out that while the five-star rate-cartel had ensured healthy room rates, with average room occupancy of 50 per cent, the industry was unlikely to be able to sustain significant additions to upmarket room supply in the short term.

The Kuwait Hilton Hotel and Resort, with 150 rooms, 144 chalets and extensive recreational facilities, which is set to open early this year is likely to exacerbate the weak occupancy figures, the authors of the survey pointed out.

They said this sector was further threatened by the four-star segment that is tempting five-star clientele by offering better value for money.

Safir International Hotels, Kuwait's only local chain, already operates four, four-star properties and is reportedly negotiating for more.

The survey said that Kuwait's hotel sector has traditionally been governed by corporate and government business, supported by a strong rate-cartel, albeit at lower occupancies.

It added government efforts to improve tourism to the area and an improved oil situation bode well for the industry but are unlikely to significantly improve visitor arrivals in the short term.