The UAE’s global stature as a tourism and hospitality powerhouse reclaimed its topliner position in 2023, with several factors contributing to optimism. Ranging from the relaxation of visa rules for inbound tourism to realigning structural changes to accommodate the post-pandemic requisites for safety; the UAE has braced itself up as the demand for tourism across segments further unfolds in the rest of 2023.
The new decade ushered in an era of rethinking strategies like never before.
In times when the hospitality industry was devising newer ways for sustainability, it also had to adapt to the first-of-its-kind travel protocols to maintain a competitive edge whilst offering unforgettable experiences. With that settling in, tastes and preferences evolving at breakneck speed, and consumer trends depicting tourism on top of their wish list; it’s time to take a look at the current trends to ensure innovative concepts set in to cater to the new rise in demand.
Here are the developments driving the hospitality sector…
1. Bleisure travellers and hotel workspaces
Summers were usually considered quiet months for the hospitality industry in the Middle East. Given the extreme weather, the region experienced a slack in inbound tourism. But, the relaxation of visa laws and stringent laws in place for contract periods ranging from a couple of days to a few months; resurrected the ‘business coupled with leisure’ trend. Also, with some major MNCs announcing permanent work-from-home, there is a separate genre of travellers and freelancers that are experimenting with the freedom to work from any part of the world and still be able to satiate their wanderlust.
This opportunity is huge for the UAE due to the strategic geographical location which makes it a perfect pit-stop for long-haul flights as well as for having the best-in-class infrastructure and hospitality, housekeeping, and recreation offerings.
2. Long weekends and staycations
Staycations were observed as the preferred choice for residents of the UAE in the past three years, but with the global tourism opportunities opening up, ong holiday breaks will see an outbound course of travel. International destinations over local staycations are being taken over by neighbouring countries such as Georgia and Armenia. Similarly, the UAE is also establishing itself as a preferred travel destination for quick getaways by tourists hailing from or visiting other Gulf countries.
To accommodate this new wave of staycations for short intervals, the hospitality industry has reworked its pricing strategy to meet the demand of the expected increase of staycations from GCC tourists compared to last year along with an increase in room ADR (average daily rate) starting from October.
3. Travelling on a budget
Grim economic forecasts have changed the ways of perceiving holidays. For a larger consumer base, fancy amenities and lavish environs no longer seem attractive. The hospitality industry is registering an ever-increasing customer base that’s always looking out to stretch every dirham spent. The idea is to spend consciously without compromising on the quality or experience. With the internet allowing deal comparisons and search for competitive rates, travellers are optimising their buck to gain more in less.
4. Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) – A go-to for travellers
Today, around 55 to 60 per cent of hotel bookings come through booking portals. Booking.com, Expedia, Agoda, Make My Trip are the four most popular OTA sites people travelling to this region book through. Great offers, location, services and prices are the key differentiators when it comes to choosing a hotel.
Facilities at prime locations tend to enjoy higher occupancy for those seeking convenience while exquisite locales like sea-facing amenities/rooms gain traction when it comes to experience. Come September and spaces with such features are in for a busy season ahead.
5. Hyper-personalisation and digitised experience
Didn’t we see how technology has transformed everything from operations to guest relations? The trend towards digital and contactless services is here to stay and will further gain momentum. Technology-assisted options like mobile check-ins, biometrics, and contactless payments are well-integrated aspects of the hospitality industry and have become game-changing pointers when it comes to choosing facilities.
Furthermore, consumers have explored a newfound demand to be treated as individuals and are simply enjoying the AI-driven benefits that let hoteliers tailor their offers and promotions to suit spending power.
6. Reviews and recommendations
There is no escaping these as online reviews and traveller recommendations have created well-established bonhomie amongst digital users. Today, travel plans start with browsing the internet for experiences, recommendations, and reviews. By wanting the best for the time and money spent; words of experience and advice play a crucial role as a deciding factor among available choices.
With trends favouring the hospitality sector, the latter half of 2023 is expected to post significant growth contributing towards tourism.
The writer is the corporate director of Sales & Marketing for LEVA Hotels