Robert Swade, founder of new UK-based Maze consultancy, says Dubai should look to build up its domestic tourism offering amid coronavirus
Dubai can protect itself is by building up its domestic customer base, according to Robert Swade.
The global hospitality industry, including the UAE, has experienced the “greatest halt in operations in living memory”.
That’s according to Robert Swade, former chief operating officer of Dubai-headquartered Jumeirah Group and founder of Maze, a new global hospitality advisory firm.“There is no doubt tourism will continue to be affected by the Covid pandemic, and sadly Dubai will not be untouched,” Swade told Arabian Business.
“The industry is under huge stress at the moment and the focus is naturally on survival.”
London-based Maze was founded this month with the aim of helping the hospitality industry to build more profitable and purposeful business models and to advise on the future growth of the sector.
The Maze board reads like a ‘who’s who’ of former Dubai tourism executives, including ex-Jumeirah directors Alison Broadhead and Alison Styles. Jumeirah runs a number of luxury hotels around the world including Dubai’s world famous Burj al Arab (pictured below).
According to Swade, the regional and global hospitality industry must dramatically redesign itself to survive amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Businesses will be facing a completely new organisational structure as a result of the drastic redundancies and they will need adopting a more humane approach to leadership,” said Swade. “The strategy will be different for each business but a core focus should be on increasing topline revenue, which might come from repurposing accommodation to working across different industries and changing their customer base,” he said.
Swade said the tourism market in Dubai is dynamic and entrepreneurial, with “huge capacity” to unite for a collective effort to respond to coronavirus restrictions to retain its status as a safe and appealing destination for tourists all around the world.
“One way the industry can protect itself is by building up its domestic customer base,” the Maze managing director added.“Dubai is known for being an international market but with global travel being a key restriction, the tourism industry will have to think of new ways to engage both locally and within the UAE in the immediate future.”
Hans-Peter Betz, director of the Dubai-headquartered the International Association of Hotel General Managers, confirmed to Arabian Business that hotel occupancy is currently being driven by domestic demand.
“Dubai’s hospitality is driven by local demand at this point with weekends doing very well. The percentage of international tourist is still very small,” Betz said.
The world’s tourism sector could lose at least $1.2 trillion, or 1.5 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), having been placed at a standstill for months due to the coronavirus pandemic, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said in a report published in July.
UNCTAD estimates losses in the most pessimistic scenario, a 12-month break in international tourism, at $3.3 trillion or 4.2 percent of global GDP.
“Covid presents real jeopardy and real challenges, but those who articulate their mission will stand above those without. It has the potential to build empathy, which itself presents an opportunity to refocus on intuitive, personal service,” said Swade.“Though customers may not return to hotels, restaurants or bars overnight, businesses must focus on re-defining their mission and building both customer and colleague trust for the long term.”
Five things we learned:
* The regional hospitality industry must dramatically redesign itself to survive amid the COVID-19 pandemic
*Tourism businesses face a completely new organisational structure as a result of drastic COVID-19 redundancies
* Dubai’s tourism industry may have to think of new ways to engage both locally and within the UAE in the immediate future
* Hospitality firms should focus on increasing topline revenue, which might come from repurposing accommodation to working across different industries and changing their customer base
* UNCTAD estimates losses in the most pessimistic scenario, a 12-month break in international tourism, at $3.3 trillion or 4.2 percent of global GDP.
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