Domestic travel picking up

Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) took place in a brand new format, addressing how the hotel industry can ‘Transform Tomorrow.’ As the hosts of the second day of AHIC at Rixos Premium JBR property, Mark Willis, CEO Middle East & Africa at Accor, shared his views about the event and the industry.

Shehara Rizly

Q In terms of investment, what are your thoughts on the UAE, KSA and Middle East hospitality investment market as a whole?

KSA remains a very solid market for investment, which is in alignment with the 2030 vision. There is a very big push taking place for Giga projects and Accor is involved in discussions regarding these potential projects for our brands.

In the UAE, we see a trend for opportunities which are geared towards rebranding and conversions of existing brands, with a select number of new developments coming up.

These new developments are very unique in terms of proposition, which allows us to look at the possibility of bringing some of our existing brands into the market which are new for the region, as well as look into new concepts which may not be available in the market yet. For Egypt, we can still see good momentum between new developments and rebranding opportunities.

Q As a hotel investor / management company what are the main challenges faced during the crisis and what areas is your business currently focusing on?

For now, in terms of development opportunities, for the Middle East we are focusing on takeovers and conversions, while looking for new developments that will allow us to bring in new products and brands into the market that will not compete with the existing offerings. These include leisure destinations, all-inclusive concepts and lifestyle geared brands.

Q When do you think revenue will start kicking in for investors in the industry? Will it be 2021/2022?

We see the recovery for the region coming back in three phases in the next 18-24 months.

Phase 1 will focus on local tourism until border restrictions are lifted and travel requirements are eased. This will be followed by Phase 2 which will include regional short-haul travel within the Middle East region. The last Phase will be the third one, which will take place once long-haul travel sees less restrictions as well as travel requirements being lowered.

Q Will Q4 be better for the industry? If so, please explain.

We see positive signs in the market, especially in the UAE, since the borders were reopened and travel restrictions were eased. During the summer months we have seen positive demand from short-haul regional markets as well as some long-haul interVnational markets such as the UK and France. For other countries in the region such as Morocco, KSA and Egypt, even though it is all driven by the local market, we still see positive recovery signs through staycations.

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