How Expo 2020 Dubai can supercharge the UAE's tourism rebound

Colliers is forecasting that occupancies across the main sub-markets of Dubai will range between 64% to 73% for the full year 2021

Rove Expo 2020 is located at one of the event’s main attractions, Al Wasl Plaza.

Expo 2020 Dubai will be a ‘strong catalyst’ in the recovery of the country’s hospitality industry, according to leading industry experts.

With just over a month to go until the global showcase event opens to the public, hotels are already witnessing an increase in bookings – suites at Rove Expo 2020 are nearly sold out after bookings for the event’s only on-site hotel opened less than a month ago, according to Paul Bridger, chief operating officer at Rove Hotels.

Consultants Colliers is forecasting that occupancies across the main sub-markets of Dubai will range between 64 percent to 73 percent for the full year 2021.

“Our expectations are that business or MICE travellers will be a large volume of visitors to Expo, be it for certain meetings or events,” said Lund. “There is also a strong portion of demand for medium/long stay business especially among serviced apartment properties for delegates who will be working at the Expo for an extended period of time.

“The luxury segment will also be in demand, especially from travelling VIP delegates/delegations.”

Christopher Lund, head of hotels at Colliers MENA.

In terms of the Rove Expo 2020, it is located at one of the event’s main attractions, Al Wasl Plaza, featuring 312 king, twin and accessible Rover Rooms, as well as 19 extra-cool suites.

Bridger previously told Arabian Business: “Our suites at Rove Expo 2020 have driven a lot of interest and at this stage they are our best-selling rooms. This is the first Rove property to ever feature suites so it has been a welcomed surprise.”

Half of hotel owners and operators in Dubai expect occupancy levels to rise above 60 percent this year, while three-quarters expect numbers to return to pre-Covid levels by 2023, according to the latest report from consultants KPMG.

Tim Cordon, senior area vice president, Middle East and Africa, for Radisson Hotels, told Arabian Business: “The recovery phase has been driven by a rebound in domestic tourism, which is why many had to change their approach in terms of strategy. Moving into the cooler months and the highly anticipated peak season, many have been pinning their hopes towards Q3 and Q4 and Expo will definitely be a part of it.”

He added: “The pandemic has shown us how unpredictable life can be and has taught us to be resilient but also flexible, nimble, open-minded and positive. With that in mind we are positive that with vaccines rolling out across the globe, people will be eager to travel again, and Expo will be a fantastic opportunity to discover both the UAE but also be part of one of the biggest global events.”

Tim Cordon, senior area vice president, Middle East and Africa, for Radisson Hotels.

Expo 2020 Dubai, delayed from last year as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic, will run over 182-days through to March 31. In what is the first Expo to be hosted in the Middle East, the event will be the largest global gathering held during the coronavirus pandemic after this year’s Tokyo Olympics were effectively held ‘behind closed doors’, without supporters to cheer on athletes.

Each participating nation will have its own pavilion at the expo, with 50,000 employees so far setting up around 192 pavilions representing nations, organisations, businesses and education establishments.

Bruno Trenchard (pictured below), senior manager – Hotels and Tourism, CBRE Middle East, told Arabian Business: “Demand will be there, but Expo will cover a long period and not all days will be as busy as others. I expect demand to peak especially around specific dates such as New Year’s Eve or when special events happen.

“Dubai is a very large hospitality market with nearly 130,000 hotel rooms available, and we don’t expect occupancy rates to be consistently high for the duration of the entire event, considering that it is currently relatively stable around 60 percent.”

Dubai and the wider UAE has earned worldwide acclaim for the way in which the country has tackled the pandemic. Indeed, Dubai has kept its doors open to the international community since July last year, under stringent health and safety guidelines to guard against the spread of Covid-19.

The country’s vaccine rollout is also one of the best in the world. As of Monday, 34,328 doses of Covid-19 vaccine were given in the last 24 hours, to reach a total of 18,111,163 doses, with a distribution rate of 183.12 doses per 100 people.

More than 86.8 percent have now received one dose and 75.8 percent are fully vaccinated.

Trenchard said the Expo would be the perfect stage to show the world exactly how returning tourism in a safe environment can be done.

“We expect a pick-up in market performance as a result of the Expo, but market recovery is a long path that will take longer than Expo,” he said.

“A careful balance will need to be struck between attracting high numbers of visitors, while maintaining a perception of high safety for all visitors and workers. Expo can be a great trial to show that safe tourism can resume.”

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