Middle East’s Hotel Industry Suffers; Cruisers Optimistic About Long Hauls in 2021

TraveloGuide Insight
3 min readMay 27, 2020

As governments around the Middle East move to ease their lockdown restrictions from today, the impact of Covid-19 crisis on the cruise industry and the hotel industry can be seen even more clearly.

As per data from an American company — Smith Travel Research, hotels in the Middle East and Africa have reported unprecedented performance drops in April 2020. Occupancy levels in Middle East’s Hotel Industry reduced by 58 percent. Revenue per available room has dropped 72.7 percent to $29.82.

As compared to April 2019, the occupancy rates in Saudi Arabia have experienced a 50.4 percent drop to 31.8 percent this year. This is the lowest for the country since 2003. In Qatar, the occupancy of hotels suffered a 33 percent hit to reach 48.8 percent.

Despite challenges, the cruise industry seems optimistic about the demand for Japan, Dubai and world cruises in the first and second quarters of 2021. As per the CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings — Del Rio, “This notion that people aren’t going to want to cruise to faraway places or exotic destinations, what we’re seeing is defying that.” Sources claim that people are not scared to book long-haul exotic destinations in both cruise and tour.

Flexible cancellation policies and reduced deposit programs by Middle East’s cruise service providers have encouraged consumers to book for 2021. As per Jack Anderson, a former cruise line executive currently consulting for Crystal, bookings for 2022 and 2023 have already started for Asia and Middle East cruises.

Although the Covid-19 crisis has not surpassed completely, the Middle East’s hospitality industry is opening gradually while following all hygiene protocols by the government. Local hotels in Dubai have started bookings for residents willing to spend their Eid holidays and their summer break.

Several hoteliers are launching highly competitive offers to promote themselves. Area Director of Middle East and General Manager of Taj Dubai Ranjit Phillipose said, “We anticipate some level of demand from residents who have been cooped up at home and are looking for a change of scenery.”

Since the UAE government has allowed free travel between the Emirates, members of the Middle East hospitality industry are expecting some hike in demand from residents who are keen to move out after being stuck in lockdown for a long time. Starting today, entertainment attractions like Dubai Ice Rink will also reopen. While hotel beaches will be open to guests, public beaches and mosques will remain shut.

Meanwhile, hotels in Abu Dhabi are awaiting orders from the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority. As per reports, the Department of Culture and Tourism of the country is likely to release an extensive list of guidelines for hotels, bars, lounges and gyms prior to resuming operations.

By analysing the bookings status of Middle East’s hotel industry, one can say that although people are not keen to book or go for a trip on an urgent basis, the desire to travel even for short vacations is stronger than ever.