You could say that in the fast-paced world of the Middle East, where competitors are constantly appearing, if you aren’t growing, then you are actually falling behind. Aside from this, however, 2023 undoubtedly feels like a year in which everything is aligned for businesses in the hospitality industry to truly take off. The uncertainty of the pandemic is behind us and this, coupled with the knowledge that the Middle East can cope with the unpredictability of a large-scale crisis, has set the scene for a swift rebound.
Firm foundations for ambitious plans
We all know that if there’s one thing investors love, it’s stability, and with tourism figures already moving toward pre-Covid-19 levels, confidence in the region is rightly high. This positive backdrop aligns well with the Middle East’s ever-evolving plans for growth. The UAE has announced that as part of its National Tourism Strategy 2031, it expects to secure AED 27.2 billion for additional tourism investments and welcome 40 million hotel guests by 2031. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is set to welcome 25 million visitors this year alone, with projects such as the Red Sea Development continuing to take shape, whilst Qatar, still riding on the wave of a highly successful World Cup tournament in 2022, has seen a 374 percent increase in visitors this year.
Doing more to attract talent
As the industry grows and reputations and standards rise, it’s important to ensure that education and talent platforms are in place to support sectoral expansion. Tourism may be one of the biggest contributors to many regional economies, but there are several others. It’s up to us within the industry to ensure that hospitality is a viable career path for talent and help eradicate the viewpoint held by some that these are jobs for people en route to doing something else. We need more management programs, more openness to internships and more opportunities for development for talent of all nationalities and backgrounds. Recently, we’ve started to work with apprentices to gain industry experience, which has been hugely rewarding. I hope more industry leaders will come to recognize that this is an ideal way of showing people how exciting hospitality can be and adopt this approach.
Expanding into wellness
The Middle East has also seen an upsurge in wellness-related travel recently, which will undoubtedly continue to increase this year and beyond. From Six Senses Zighy Bay in Oman to Zulal Wellness Resorts in Qatar, there are already several fantastic wellness resorts within the region that blend traditional Middle Eastern practices with modern technology and facilities. Awareness as to the importance of both physical and mental health is at an all-time high and with an increasing number of travelers looking to escape the hustle and bustle of modern-day life, it’s a sector that I believe will continue to grow this year and is ripe for investment. As always, the most successful businesses are the ones that adapt to what customers want and each hospitality company should think of ways to integrate wellness into their business models.
and founder of Gates Hospitality