The Hotel Show Commentary: “Tune Down Expectations”


Laurent A. Voivenel, Senior Vice President, Operations and Development for the Middle East, Africa and India, Swiss-Belhotel International, was among the top speakers today at The Hotel Show being held at the Dubai World Trade Centre from 18 to 20th September, 2017. Speaking at the Middle East Hospitality Leadership Forum, Laurent participated in a panel discussion on the booming mid-market in Dubai and its ongoing effect on 4* & 5* operators.

Elaborating on some of the factors affecting the market, Laurent stated, “The hotel industry in the region is being reshaped by digital and technological advancements, new market players particularly regional independent operators, changing consumer behaviour, online distribution battle, over supply of rooms and emergence of new forms of competition such as AirBnB. We are increasingly witnessing a shift in key source markets to lower spending regions due to growth in low-cost carriers and expanding middle class, and this necessitates the development of more mid-market hotels.”

Few months back Dubai crossed the 100,000 rooms tally with a current inventory of 104,138 keys spread across 679 hotels. Of this only 38% fall within the 1 to 3-star classification, with the remaining 62% representing 4-star, 5-star or hotel apartments.

By 2020, Dubai’s goal is to reach 20 million visitors and 160,000 rooms. Laurent said, “Nearly 30% of hotels will be in the mid-market category in the upcoming supply but it will still be less than the demand. To reach the goal of 20 million visitors by 2020, the city needs to achieve an annual visitor growth of 7-8% and this can only be achieved by targeting a wider range of visitors and mass tourism markets.”

Laurent further stressed, “The hotel supply pyramid is no doubt upside down. There is huge percentage of luxury offerings at the top and relatively weak mid-market supply at the bottom. Over supply of rooms in the luxury segment is putting a tremendous pressure on rates that in turn is affecting ROI. Dubai’s 5 &

4-star hotel rooms contribute more than 30% of the hotel rooms that are available, whereas in mature markets 5 & 4-star rooms make up only 10% of all the rooms. Dubai is working towards growing its inventory of mid-scale hotels to address this huge market gap.

Speaking about the rate war, Laurent said, “Market Distortion is dictated by the volumes which impact the average rate. If the volume of business is to grow at the pace of supply of key inventory then the market distortion will be minimum. Unfortunately the supply is growing faster than the demand which is putting pressure on the market. Operators and owners, therefore, need to tune down expectations. This could mean getting used to lower occupancies of 70% as an average rather than 80% which was normal until recently.”

Laurent concluded, “Dubai’s tourism fundamentals are extremely strong and its vision incomparable. The solid foundation that the government has put in place through broadening portfolio of leisure and business attractions and facilities, diversification of source markets, collaboration between various business sectors will continue to boost and sustain demand.”


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