Domestic tourism in UAE has 'exploded' since onset of coronavirus

CBRE report reveals more needs to be done to tempt locals away from international travel

Dubai, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah have reopened to tourists from abroad.

Domestic tourism in the UAE has “exploded” as a result of the coronavirus crisis, however, the country still has some way to go to become a holiday haven for residents, according to Bruno Trenchard, senior manager – hotels and hospitality, at CBRE Middle East.

The global Covid-19 pandemic resulted in the closure of international borders, although Dubai, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah have since reopened to tourists from abroad. As a result the domestic market has taken off – Abu Dhabi achieved the highest hotel occupancy rates and the third highest revenue per room in the region in Q3. While, relative to Q2, hotel revenues saw an increase of 46 percent, with a 95 percent increase in the number of guests.

Trenchard told Arabian Business: “It has literally exploded in the last few months. We have had stories of countless resorts in the country that are really doing well, that are really full on the weekends and that are really banking on this domestic tourism trend.”

According to CBRE’s UAE Domestic Tourism Trends & opportunities for the hospitality sector, just one in five hotel guests in the country were UAE nationals – pre-Covid. Trenchard said that figure has since gone up to around ‘nine-out-of-ten’ guests.

However, he conceded that still falls some way short of other countries, such as France, where around two-thirds of tourism spending comes from the domestic market.

“We’re not going to reach those numbers in the UAE because the country size is not enough to justify that,” he said. “But on the other hand, I think you had roughly one in five hotel guests were UAE nationals, so if you add residents on top of this, you could have a good percentage of the market that’s coming from within the UAE.”

The report identified a number of areas where opportunities exist to further capitalise on the domestic tourism market, including camping or glamping, desert resorts and midscale and upscale beach resorts.

“There is a lot to do in the country, we’re not saying the opposite, but we believe that if there are more attractions being developed and more offerings for people to stay in the country, then they will stay even more and travel abroad less and spend more of their income within the UAE,” said Trenchard.

“This is where there’s a big challenge for investors and for the government in different emirates is to make sure that even if people start travelling again, they also keep staying in hotels within the country. So developing the offering; offering and having new activities for the residents that can be one way to retain them and I think hoteliers also have a role to play in that. Having some special residents-rates for instance could by very useful.

“It could really help sustain the recovery of the market because international travel will take some time to get back to the levels it was at before.”

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