Expo 2020 spurs recovery in Mideast tourism, say experts

 Wednesday, March 2, 2022 

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The hospitality industry is recovering at a pace faster than expected in the Middle East region with Expo 2020 Dubai serving as a strong catalyst for the remarkable rebound of the sector, said experts during a key meeting in Dubai.

Leading hotel experts came together in a virtual roundtable ‘The Great Hospitality Reset’ in Dubai to discuss the future of hotel business and the industry outlook while catering to the changed mindset of travellers.


Together they hailed the Expo 2020 Dubai for accelerating the hospitality industry’s path to recovery.

The webinar, organized by EVOPS Hotel Development Consultancy, in association with The House of ARY, BEE Global, Sabre, and Travel and Tourism News (TTN), was moderated by Natalie Nasser.

On the panel were Michel Noblet, Executive Chairman, ATECA Holding; Laurent A. Voivenel, Senior Vice President – Operations and Development, Europe Middle East, Africa and India; and Senior Vice President – Group Human Resources and Talent Development, Swiss-Belhotel International; Chris Nader, Co-Founder & CEO, ENVI Lodges; Nick Jeffery, Vice President, International, Sabre Hospitality; Jad Shamseddin, Chief Operating Officer, Aleph Hospitality; Kostas Nikolaidis, Middle East, Africa & Greece Executive, STR; Tina Haller, Director, Deal Advisory – Real Estate & Hospitality, KPMG; Rohit Vig, Vice President Development, StayWell Hospitality; and Vinicio Alberelli, Global Director of Operations, Nikki Beach Hotels and Resorts.




Talking about the industry outlook, Tina Haller, Director, Deal Advisory – Real Estate & Hospitality, KPMG, said that the Mena region is doing pretty well with individual markets performing relatively better.

Looking at the entire region we expect the full recovery in 2022 with occupancy reaching back to 2019 levels.


Although international travel is yet to come back, mega events such as the Expo 2020 Dubai and FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 have supported demand for the region.


However, considering what is happening in Ukraine there is still a lot of uncertainty to this recovery.

Commenting on the changes taking place in the industry, Laurent A Voivenel, Senior Vice President – Operations and Development, Europe Middle East, Africa and India; and Senior Vice President – Group Human Resources and Talent Development, Swiss-Belhotel International, said that corporate business is changing with the change in the corporate travellers’ habits and expense of travel.

Nick Jeffery, Vice President, International, Sabre Hospitality, said that they are seeing a quick acceleration of booking recovery with hospitality bookings leading the way and hotels and restaurants continuing to demonstrate buoyancy.

There is a huge pent-up demand for hotels much of which is driven by Expo 2020 Dubai.


The narrative we are hearing from our customers is basically that hoteliers want capabilities to monetise every aspect of the customer journey both inside and outside the hotel room as well as in property and off property experiences.

In response to these challenges, technology companies like Sabre had to deliver new marketplaces that enable hoteliers to boost travel by selling anything including on property and off property products, services, and personalised experiences.

They also provide hoteliers revenue growth and create overall stronger brand engagement and loyalty.

Chris Nader, Co-Founder & CEO, ENVI Lodges, said the change in market behaviour and lifestyle have pushed experts, developers and investors to start thinking differently on how to design and develop a hotel.


In the past 70% of the revenue used to come from rooms, therefore, you would start thinking how you can maximise the number of rooms. It does not any more add any value to the guests as they are looking for something different, something more intimate, much more experiential, much more diversified in terms of offerings.


Suddenly we are seeing a shift in the revenue towards 50-50. At times even a higher percentage of other sources of revenue than rooms – mainly driven by the need to have experiences.


Kostas Nikolaidis, Middle East, Africa & Greece Executive, STR, said that they have come a long way in the COVID-19 recovery.


The Middle East, in particular, has been leading that recovery with Expo 2020 Dubai boosting the performance. There is more to come especially with events such as the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 around the corner.



On the way as well is a big business events calendar coming up in Dubai with new announcements almost every other week. Ultimately it is all about doing ordinary things better in these extraordinary times. It is important to keep moving forward with the whole ecosystem including owners, technology providers, management companies, hotels and people.




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