Living Local Trend Gains Momentum in UAE With Luxury Staycations A Hit

  • Multi-brand hotel alliance to grow portfolio and enhance loyalty programme as member data identifies strong demand for more aspirational travel experiences both at home and away.

The ‘living local’ trend is gaining strong momentum in the UAE as residents explore the wide range of exceptional luxury travel opportunities close to home, according to new data by Global Hotel Alliance (GHA), operator of the world’s largest loyalty programme for independent hotel brands, GHA DISCOVERY, featuring more than 500 hotels across 35 brands in 85 countries.

Data on summer travel behaviours from GHA DISCOVERY members based in the UAE, where GHA is headquartered, reveals that 92% took a staycation from June to September 2021, compared to just 68% during the same period in 2019.

Keen to make the most of GHA’s vast UAE portfolio, which includes 23 properties across seven brands – Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas, Avani Hotels & Resorts, JA Resorts and Hotels, Kempinski Hotels, Mysk Hotels, Nikki Beach Hotels & Resorts and Oaks Hotels, Resorts & Suites – members took longer local breaks too, with the average length of stay up 24% in 2021 versus 2019.

Bigger picture data reveals the Middle East and North Africa as the third-largest staycation market globally this summer, with 75% of GHA DISCOVERY member stays being domestic from June to September 2021 compared to 44% in the same four months in 2019. The largest staycation region was Asia, with domestic stays jumping to 91% during the four-month period in 2021 versus 52% in 2019, followed by Europe with 87% versus 68%, respectively.

GHA DISCOVERY members demonstrated an overwhelming desire to live local, with domestic hotel visits accounting for 88% of all stays globally in 2021. When they did venture overseas, the UAE proved immensely popular. Within a six-hour flying time of both the UK and Germany, it was one of the top five destinations visited by GHA DISCOVERY members from both countries this summer.

With member data confirming the staycation trend’s prominence and a separate GHA survey revealing members want to get away more often and gain exclusive access to places and experiences, GHA is preparing to enter its next phase of evolution, expanding its portfolio of properties and significantly enhancing the loyalty programme they all share.

Set to launch at the end of the year, the redesigned GHA DISCOVERY programme will encompass a wide range of features that meet the needs of today’s travellers, such as a new easy-to-use and transparent digital rewards currency and expanded tier structure, as well as more ways to earn rewards and to enjoy hotel amenities and experiences without a stay.

GHA DISCOVERY will also expand to become one of the 10 largest loyalty programmes in the hospitality sector when NH Hotel Group joins GHA in early 2022, offering members the choice of 360 additional hotels in 30 countries across three brands – NH Hotels, NH Collection and nhow – and growing the GHA portfolio to more than 800 properties worldwide.

“In 2021, consumers are embracing opportunities to live life to the fullest, exploring new destinations that are closer to home, revisiting old favourites, and demanding more in-hotel experiences whether they are staying overnight or taking a quick ‘daycation’. This is nowhere more evident than in the UAE, where residents are making the most of the outstanding hospitality and destination experiences on their doorstep, as our summer 2021 data clearly reveals,” said GHA CEO Chris Hartley.

“We expect this trend to accelerate, buoyed by our hotels hosting Expo 2020 Dubai visitors, and in tandem with this staycation movement, GHA is evolving to meet members’ lifestyle needs, offering a greater choice of hotels locally and overseas and reimagining GHA DISCOVERY to offer more recognition, generous rewards and VIP access to hotel facilities with or without a stay.”

The GHA data reveals several top line domestic and international travel trends for 2021: 

The top staycation markets were UAE, Hong Kong, US, Germany and the UK

Members based in the UAE and Hong Kong spent 92% of trips at home this summer compared to 68% and 25% respectively in 2019, and in the US, 91% stayed domestic compared to 90% two years prior. In Germany, 59% of member trips were local in 2021 compared to 23% in 2019, and in the UK, 47% stayed domestic in 2021 versus 23% in 2019. 98% of GHA DISCOVERY members based in Singapore staycationed compared to 31% in 2019, closely followed by India, where 95% of members took domestic trips in 2021 versus 70% in 2019. This is not surprising, because both countries were more travel restricted than others.

Overseas trips were predominantly short-haul and most-visited destinations included the UAE

GHA DISCOVERY members who travelled overseas showed a tendency to stay closer to home. For instance, the top five countries for German members travelling internationally were Austria, Norway, the UAE, Czech Republic and Croatia, whereas in 2019, long-haul destinations including China and Thailand dominated the top slots.

The UK member top five international destinations this summer were Malta, the UAE, Norway, Jordan and Ireland, reflecting the strict travel restrictions imposed on travellers returning to the UK, as well as a preference to fly to shorter haul destinations. In comparison, long-haul destinations including Thailand, India and the United States dominated the top five destinations for UK members in 2019.

Length of stay trends varied greatly by market

With a vast range of luxury staycation options on their doorstep, members in the UAE and Australia upped their average length of stay the most (+24% and +22% respectively), followed by members in Germany (+12%) and the UK (+11%), India and Singapore (+10% and +8% respectively).

In Asia, when members travelled overseas, they made the most of it, with the average length of stay increasing 169% in 2021 (v. 2019) for members leaving Singapore and 245% for those travelling out of Hong Kong. Conversely, Hong Kong members staying local took very short trips, with the average length of stay down 23%.

Travellers opted for high-quality local hotel stays and experiences

Following a period of uncertainty and global lockdown restrictions, GHA DISCOVERY members made luxury travel a priority with a focus on quality travel experiences in local destinations, reflected in an increase in spend per stay.

Discerning UK members took the lead, with an 80% increase in average spend per stay on domestic trips in 2021 compared to 2019. Other big spenders prioritising luxury travel in 2021 included members in Germany (+61%), China (+34%), Australia and the US (both +31%).

When members did travel overseas, it was those originating from Hong Kong whose average spend increased the most in 2021 versus 2019, up 75%, followed by members in the US (+71%), Australia (+37%), in the UK (+36%) and Singapore (+34%).


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