Message from regional hospitality leaders: Dubai is open
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Message from regional hospitality leaders: Dubai is open

Message from regional hospitality leaders: Dubai is open

Dubai officially reopened its doors to international tourists from July 7, even as the local economy has gradually returned to some level of normalcy. Covid-19 preventative measures remain, but the move will hopefully bolster the entire tourism ecosystem and aid its economic recovery. Have hospitality and leisure businesses in Dubai started to feel the impact?


Mark Willis
CEO, Middle East and Africa, Accor

Since the announcement of the border opening, we have seen an increase in search activities for our properties in Dubai. This has come from regional source markets, such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and from international countries including Germany, France and the UK. We believe tourism will have a phased return in our region over the next 18-24 months.

Phase 1: Local demand with staycation and local business drivers
Phase 2: Regional demand for leisure and business driven stays
Phase 3: International travel once confidence in long term travel returns

Accor is pioneering a new guest safety initiative called ‘All Safe Officer’, as part of which every hotel will appoint a health and safety officer, who will ensure cleaning and hygiene protocols are implemented and handle guests’ questions and concerns. These specially trained officers are part of Accor’s ‘All Safe’ programme – which includes specific operating protocols and deploying cleaning products technology. Accor has also partnered with AXA insurance to provide guests with free medical support including consultations with medical professionals.

Our long-term development strategy remains unchanged; we are still signing new hotels despite the crisis and we will continue our expansion programme. Our MEA pipeline over the next 36 months includes 127 hotels with over 33,000 rooms, including 29 hotels with over 7,800 rooms in the UAE.

In 2020, we are scheduled to open the Sofitel Wafi Dubai in September, offering 498 rooms – making it the largest Sofitel in the region, and we will also open the Grand Mercure Dubai Airport, which will have 360 rooms. In regards to the future of the industry, it holds changes and revised expectations which we need to incorporate in to our daily operations and procedures.

Guido de Wilde
COO, Middle East, Marriott International

We are delighted to see Dubai lift many restrictions and open up to receive the world. It is still early stages and the overall impact to our hotels in Dubai is hard to predict with the situation still evolving and travel restrictions still in place in other parts of the world, including key source markets. However, we remain cautiously optimistic about the future.

We are hopeful that recovery will happen sooner than we think in this market. The UAE is one of the countries that has been able to manage the pandemic quite effectively.

The government initiatives, focus on health and safety of residents and the country’s ability to reinvent itself, definitely puts it at the top of the list of countries that can swiftly emerge from this pandemic.

Covid-19 has not only had a significant impact on our business, but also on how we operate our hotels. The pandemic has required us to raise our exacting standards to an even higher level with new protocols. Marriott created the Global Cleanliness Council to tackle the realities of the pandemic at the hotel level and develop the next level of global hospitality cleanliness standards, norms and behaviours that are designed to minimise risk and also enhance safety.

We remain confident in the long-term prospects of the industry. For now, we are taking a careful approach to recovery, with a sharp focus on cleanliness while rebuilding our business. We are also confident that we can leverage our global distribution systems and Marriott Bonvoy – our travel programme – to drive business into our hotels.

As a company we will take on-board learnings from the current pandemic and use them as we adapt to whatever the future holds. The one thing we know is that change is constant, and we will adapt to whatever the future brings.

Tim Cordon
Senior area vice president, Middle East and Africa, Radisson Hotels

While we all would like a speedy recovery, I think the global hospitality industry will still face uncertain times until medical innovations are able to mitigate some of the fluctuating circumstances. Based on previous crises, leisure travel is expected to recover quicker, particularly travel for visiting friends and relatives, rather than business travel.

We can see that travellers still want to go on holiday, especially after being isolated for such a long time, but safety has become a top priority.

As a result, there has definitely been a staycation trend and it is expected to strengthen in the coming months. We believe the post Covid-19 recovery will be driven by a rebound in domestic tourism. Going forward, travellers around the globe will certainly be a lot more conscious and cautious, but they will want to reunite with their families and friends and will consider pursuing international travel.

There are many factors we’ve had to consider from an operational perspective, including repurposing some of our hotels for essential service use, adapting new strategies and approaches to secure a strong reopening once tourism restarts, expanding hygiene, sanitation and precautionary measures such as social distancing implementation.

We recently launched the Radisson Hotels Safety protocol, a new programme for in-depth cleanliness and disinfection procedures in partnership with SGS. These enhanced health and safety procedures will be adapted based on local requirements and recommendations from check-in to check-out.

I think the biggest priority for hospitality brands is to ensure health and safety without compromising the guest experience. While location and experiences used to be the main deciding factor, consumers also want to be reassured that hotels are taking their health and safety seriously.

While these have been challenging times, we are pushing forward with our development plans. Radisson Hotel Group recently announced 15 new signings in EMEA in Q2, six of which fall in our region. The travel industry has rebounded from numerous past crises and we strongly believe we will all bounce back again, with a fresh and innovative perspective.


Naim Maadad
Co-founder, Middle East Restaurant Association (MERA)

The reopening of international tourism in Dubai is a welcome measure and we are hopeful that the turnaround for the hospitality and related sectors would contribute well to kickstart the economy in the months ahead. The build-up to the Expo 2020, which will begin in October 2021, would also be a crucial revival highway.

We need to understand that people are coming out of a lockdown situation. There is still a hesitancy due to job losses and people are holding on to their purses a lot more stringently due to uncertainty over the future. There are positive signs.

A revival of social confidence is of prime importance to the speed of the recovery process. How soon this happens, is anyone’s guess. From whatever trend one is experiencing, the signs are certainly positive and we are headed in the right direction.

All the clear directives from the authorities are being followed with great focus to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our guests and team members. That includes social distancing, masks, hand sanitisers, gloves, cleaning procedures, schedules for cleaning, and temperature checks.

We all know that until a permanent medical solution emerges in the form of a vaccine or otherwise, it would be a long journey ahead for mankind to get things back to near normal anytime soon. If all the stakeholders can take up the onus on themselves and play their part well, the journey to recovery would be much more steady, painless and consistent. My outlook for the future is filled with cautious optimism.

Paul Bridger
Corporate director, Rove Hotels

Since the local economy restarted, we have seen a positive trend with more staycations booked across our hotels. We are also welcoming people back to our hotels for the use of our co-working spaces, and we are witnessing more residents coming in to dine at our F&B outlets. Our teams and hotels are ready. Fortunately, we have kept our hotels running at high occupancies throughout the last few months, so we are fully prepared to welcome visitors to the city.

Guests must wear a mask at all times and will undergo quick, hassle-free temperature checks. Our rooms are also thoroughly sanitised prior to guest arrivals, shared spaces are regularly cleaned and we encourage our visitors to utilise contactless payment methods. Rove Hotels has also been named as the first mid-scale brand in the emirate of Dubai to receive a safeguard label from Bureau Veritas.

In the short term, we believe the local market will continue to be our main source of business as residents avail of staycations. As things get back to normality, the numbers of international tourists will also steadily rise over the coming months.

We are also optimistic because Dubai is in a very good position to bounce back, being one of the top tourist destinations in the world.


Vincent Miccolis
Regional general manager for Middle East, Africa, Turkey and India, The Ascott

The announcement of international tourism reopening in Dubai is positive news for the hospitality industry, which is heavily interlinked with travel. We anticipate that the sector’s revival will still be phased over the next six to 18 months, based on ongoing improved global market sentiment, staggered approaches to bring back commercial demand, and generation of appropriate stimuli for people to resume international travel.

The full recovery will depend on aspects such as global travel restrictions and full resumption of airline activity. We have begun to witness early signs of recovery mainly from the domestic market, and so have initially placed our efforts on the local market with a family staycation offer that can cater to the needs of our guests. Following the easing of restrictions for international travel to Dubai, we anticipate further recovery in the coming months.

We have launched ‘Ascott Cares’ as part of the brand’s commitment to hygiene and sanitisation. The protocols comply with WHO standards, and have been rolled out since June 2020. They include daily temperature checks and governmental directives on leisure and health facilities, in addition to obligatory regulations of face masks, gloves and sanitisers.

Sterilising efforts continue to be ramped up across apartments, lobbies and utilities.

We have no doubt that the hospitality industry will recover, however this will be gradual. The way business was conducted will change as we adapt to the ‘new normal’ post Covid-19. We forecast the need from select international markets for extended stays, as well as for project-related businesses to resume as restrictions continue to be relaxed.

Ralph Homer
CEO and co-founder, Lincoln Hospitality and Restaurant Secrets

I do not think there will be an immediate impact on operations with international tourism reopening. I believe many people across the world are still very hesitant to travel and we’re also in the middle of summer, when tourism is typically slower here in Dubai.

As much as we’d like to see things spring back to normal right away, the fact of the matter is that the economy worldwide has been hit hard, and because of that less people will be travelling for leisure over the coming year.

We are fortunate to have regular guests who still frequent our restaurants. We are certainly not as busy as we were due to the social distancing of tables and limited seating, but we are very happy to be open and are seeing a slow recovery.

When guests arrive in our restaurants, we take their temperature and hand sanitisers have been placed at the entrance as well as on every table. We have spaced out our tables, with guests now seated two metres apart from one another to ensure social distancing. We’ve also launched our menus digitally through a QR code on every table so that there is less contact between server and guest.

We also take temperature checks for staff members and they are required to wear gloves and masks which are changed with every table. We have also purchased visors for the culinary team that cover their entire face. We have brought on additional cleaning staff for daily and overnight sanitisation of the restaurant.

I am very optimistic about the future – the UAE has been very diligent in making safety a priority and taking the measures needed so we can enjoy eating out and going to public areas. I believe with travel slowly opening and Expo not far from now, we will see a slow but steady recovery.

In market downturns, there is always opportunity. Lincoln Hospitality is taking this time to penetrate new markets, including Riyadh, London, and Monaco. We are also launching a Dark Kitchen model, with a facility set to launch in DIFC by October. Our expansion plan for 2021 includes a brand-new outlet in Dubai Marina. We have to be adaptable in business, and I truly believe in pushing higher during difficult times to achieve success.

Gheed El Makkaoui
General manager, Careem UAE

As international tourism reopens in Dubai, we believe Careem will definitely see an increase in ride-hailing trip numbers.

To ensure safety, Careem has implemented a number of measures, including ensuring that drivers wear a mask, are in good health and regularly disinfect their vehicles with the appropriate cleaning supplies and ventilate them. Careem Kids Cybex car seats are cleaned with disinfectant wipes before each ride. All seats are professionally deep cleaned regularly by our partners at Champion Cleaners. Plastic divider screens are also installed in all vehicles to aid with physical distancing.

With social distancing becoming the norm in the foreseeable future, we can expect people’s lives to be more connected digitally, not just with family, colleagues and friends, but with their commercial interactions as well.

The Careem super app is creating more opportunities for customers and partners and it is expected that the future will show an increase in people using our services.

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