Luxury hotels and Expo boost post-COVID tourism in the UAE
The Burj Al Arab is the most instagrammed hotel in the world, with over 2.6 million pictures posted in early 2022. International travel and tourism restart after pandemic restrictions are lifted. A record was set on 24 February with 131,745 rooms sold in Dubai hotels. However, the Ukraine war casts as shadow and could still negatively impact the sector.
Dubai (AsiaNews) – The Burj Al Arab, one of the world’s most famous luxury hotels, has become the most photographed place on the planet in the past few days as measured by the number of shots posted on social media.
Almost 3.6 million pictures of the self-styled seven-star hotel have been posted on Instagram this year alone. In fact, three of the top 10 most instagrammed hotels are in the United Arab Emirates against four in Las Vegas. The remaining three are in Singapore, New York and Cernobbio (Italy).
Shaped like a sail, Burj Al Arab[*] is just off Jumeirah Beach, Dubai, which has made it one of the most iconic backgrounds for holidaymakers. Many, without staying at the hotel, use it for the perfect photo to post for friends and followers.
Inside it also offers interesting shot opportunities with gilded frames, a lobby with a scaled cascade waterfall in black marble and the Al Mahara (Oyster) restaurant featuring a large seawater aquarium.
With its hotels and buildings reaching top ranking, UAE has become a leading tourist hotspot, especially thanks to Expo 2020 Dubai, with tourism playing a major role in the local economy.
This is particularly important as international travel resumes following the lockdowns and closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which badly impacted the tourist industry worldwide with has left some countries still struggling.
On 24 February Dubai registered a record 131,745 hotel rooms booked, mostly for visitors to Expo2020, a respectable figure everything considered.
The event, which ended on 31 March, gave a major shot to tourism, including air travel, the hospitality sector and hotel bookings. This was made possible by a judicious balance of health restrictions, vaccination rollout and business savvy.
In the last quester of 2021, Dubai International Airport – one of the busiest in the world and headquarters of Emirates, the UAE’s flagship carrier – recorded its best results since the beginning of the pandemic with 11.8 million passengers.
Expo did not disappoint initial expectations, with pre-COVID forecasts of at least 25 million visitors and one million tickets sold in the last three days alone. About 30 per cent of visitors came from overseas.
During the week ending on 12 March, UAE occupancy reached 85 per cent, the highest in the world, against a world average of 50.8 per cent.
International visitors to the emirate topped 3.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2021 when Expo was in full swing; this represents 74 per cent of the total pre-pandemic levels for the same period in 2019.
From January to December 2021, Dubai alone welcomed about 7.3 million tourists, breathing new life in the tourist industry, which accounted for 11.6 per cent of total GDP in 2019.
While Dubai topped 130,000 hotel rooms sold on 24 February, the most optimistic observers think the future can even be brighter. However, there are some clouds.
Although the effects of COVID-19 are diminishing following an upsurge in late 2021, when the Omicron variant spread globally, the Russia-Ukraine war is a new challenge for tourism, with a decline especially in Eastern Europe, which for now is the region most affected by the conflict.
“Given Dubai remains geographically isolated from the tensions, the wider trends of global travel recovery are likely to drive growth in tourism from other markets,” said Shady Elborno, head of macro strategy at Emirates NBD.
On the bright side, the flow of people expected for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar later this year might be good for business in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
[*] Tower of the Arabs.