The fallout from the political upheaval in Egypt and other parts of the Middle East is likely to benefit Dubai’s tourism industry as travellers seek out alternative destinations, according to a new report by CitiGroup.
The ongoing protests in Tunisia and Egypt have generated harmful publicity for these countries and severely curbed travel and future bookings to these destinations, the report said. Meanwhile, the collapse of the Hariri government in Lebanon has plunged the country into what is likely to be a lengthy period of political uncertainty in which the threat of violence is ever-present. Together, these three countries attracted over 21 million visitors last year, the report noted.
There are also concerns that the upheaval in these countries could spill over into other parts of the Middle East, such as Jordan. A rise in travel cancellations in the kingdom has prompted the Jordan Tourism Board to issue a statement saying the country is being unfairly linked to the developments in Tunisia and Egypt, while at the same time touting the kingdom’s long and credible history of being “an oasis of stability” despite a “turbulent” region.
‘Regardless of whether these concerns are justified, the likelihood is that some of the most important tourism destinations in the Middle East are likely to see a fall in visitors in 2011,’ CitiGroup said.
Tourism shift to benefit Dubai
The good news for Dubai hotels is that they are likely to see a rise in guests as travellers avoid destinations that that they deem to be less safe. ‘To the extent that Dubai is viewed as an alternative destination to countries such as Lebanon, Tunisia and Egypt, it is likely to benefit as some visitors change their travel plans in favour of the emirate,’ the report said.
Even a small amount of diverted tourist flow from the Middle East to Dubai will have a significant impact on the local tourism industry, which is already experiencing a strong season thus far, CitiGroup maintains.
“While tourist arrivals levelled off in the 2009/2010 season (which runs from October to May), early indications, such as hotel occupancy rates and travel flow through Dubai airport, suggest that the 2010/2011 season will be a good one,” the report noted.
Peter Goddard, Managing Director of TRI Hospitality, Middle East, agrees that Dubai is well positioned to see an upturn in visitors due to the upheaval in other parts of the region. ‘I think that if you look over the past 10 years when there have been regional hot spots, other cities and countries across the Middle East have benefitted, and I think in this particular case you are going to see that Dubai will benefit,’ he told AMEInfo.com.
However, he is quick to point out that tourism has proved very resilient in the region, especially in Egypt and Lebanon, while noting that ‘people have short-term memories’ about previous crises that have arisen in these countries. ‘Egypt has this amazing ability to rebound after crises have occurred,’ he noted. ‘Tourism is just way too important there. It is the lifeblood of the country.’