Regional developers and operators that made their name with hotels in the region are beginning to look further afield to markets that have been historically overlooked.

For example, Tripoli has issued plans to build 2,000 hotel rooms by 2012. Dubai’s Kingdom Hotel Investments is planning to open hotels in Ghana and the Philippines within the next nine months. UAE-based Rotana and UK-based Range Holdings are developing hotels in the Iraqi districts of Kurdistan and Karbala, respectively. And, the UK’s InterContinental Hotel Group is developing three hotels in Nigeria and another in Angola.  

Based on what MEED has been hearing at recent tourism-related conferences and exhibitions, these destinations represent only a small percentage of the industry buzz. Dubai-based hotel chain Jumeirah counts just 20 properties in its portfolio but like a majority of companies MEED spoke to, it is planning properties for emerging markets in Asia including mainland China, Philippines, Singapore and parts of Indonesia.    

Despite an industry shift toward emerging markets, it is unfair to say that the Gulf has fallen off the radar. In Qatar’s bid for the 2022 World Cup, Doha has pledged up to 90,000 new hotel rooms. The Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities launched a $60bn initiative to build 20 new tourism cities. And, all but two of Oman’s tourism developments are on schedule in the lead up to the Second Asian Beach Games in December this year.       

While it is crucial for hotel developers to remember their core markets, emerging ones offer economic diversification. They allow forward-thinkers to set trends and create markets where previously none existed. But perhaps most importantly, developing tourism projects in emerging markets creates jobs, bolsters local economies and allows for social and cultural integration.