January Middle East tourism up on 2002

06 March 2003
Despite the continued uncertainty over war in Iraq, hotel demand in the majority of Middle East locations was higher in January 2003 than in the same period the year before, according to Deloitte & Touche's Hotelbenchmark survey. Hotels in Cairo Heliopolis, Kuwait, Qatar and Dubai all registered occupancy rates of more than 75 per cent, and only in Manama, Alexandria and Abu Dhabi did occupancies show a fall from January 2002. In the Red Sea resorts of Egypt, whose economy would suffer great disruption if war or war fears drive away tourists, saw revenue per available room (revPAR) increase significantly. At Safaga, El-Gouna and El-Quseir, revenue saw double-digit growth. However, revenue levels remain low compared to many other regional destinations: in the Red Sea resorts it was $15, at Hurghada $16 and at Luxor and Alexandria $18, compared with $167 at the Jumeirah Beach hotels and an average $147 in Kuwait. The regional picture changes when revPAR for January 2003 is compared with 2001, before the 11 September terrorist attacks on the US: with the exception of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egyptian destinations show declines of 25-50 per cent, and Moroccan rates decline 30-40 per cent. The US State Department has warned travellers against non-essential travel to Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Kuwait and Yemen.

A survey by event management company Streamline Marketing released in late February estimates that the Middle East hotel industry will see expansion worth $15,000 million in 220 new projects over the coming years. The study counted 67 new hotels planned in the UAE, followed by Egypt with 39, Saudi Arabia with 22, Jordan with 16, Lebanon with 15 and Oman with 11. Looking at confirmed and unconfirmed projects, Streamline speculated that 120 new hotels could be built in Dubai alone, and said that the project with the greatest impact on the Middle East tourist industry in the near future would be Dubai's Palm development.

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