Here we are welcoming a new year, which comes with the promise of recovery, vaccination and a host of delayed and new hospitality openings across the region
Let’s face it. We all hope 2021 will make up for all the things we didn’t, and more unfortunately, couldn’t, do in 2020. This includes the possible abolishment of Daylight Saving Time by the European Union, the completion of the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo and the launch of lunar exploration mission Chandrayaan-2 by the Indian Space Research Organisation, all postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The year 2021 is scheduled to host most major events that were originally scheduled for 2020, including the UEFA Euro 2020 (from June 11 and July 11), 2020 Summer Olympics (from July 23 to August 8), and Expo 2020 Dubai (October 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022).
Here we are welcoming a new year, which comes laden with the added responsibility to make everything okay for everyone. And yet, current trends and forward-looking data, show a slow recovery, but recovery nevertheless, with ongoing vaccination around the globe.
A recent report by Iata says that performance factors in 2021 will show improvements on 2020; and the second half of 2021 is expected to see improvements after a difficult 2021 first half. Aggressive cost-cutting is expected to combine with increased demand during 2021 (due to the re-opening of borders with testing and/or the widespread availability of a vaccine) to see the industry turn cash-positive in the fourth quarter of 2021 which is earlier than previously forecast.
“This crisis is devastating and unrelenting. Airlines have cut costs by 45.8 per cent, but revenues are down 60.9 per cent. The result is that airlines will lose $66 for every passenger carried this year for a total net loss of $118.5 billion. This loss will be reduced sharply by $80 billion in 2021. But the prospect of losing $38.7 billion next year is nothing to celebrate. We need to get borders safely reopened without quarantine so that people will fly again. And with airlines expected to bleed cash at least until the fourth quarter of 2021 there is no time to lose,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
Looking ahead, the announcement of a vaccine and the start of vaccination are expected to gradually increase consumer confidence. At the same time, a growing number of destinations are easing or lifting restrictions on travel. According to the latest research from UNWTO, the proportion of closed destinations has dropped from 82 per cent in late April 2020 to 18 per cent in early November (expressed in percentage of international arrivals).
The extended scenarios for 2021-2024 presented by the United Nations specialized agency for tourism point to a rebound by the second half of 2021. Nonetheless, a return to 2019 levels in terms of international arrivals could take between two-and-a-half and four years not taking into account multiple waves of the virus’s return.
But the show, as they say, must go on, and if new project signings may be a bit few and far between, projects that are midway through or almost there will be opening up this new year, with the ones that opened in 2020 likely to get a relaunch (and with good reason!).
A regional round-up of hotel openings for 2021 (includes but is not limited to):
The popular Mama Shelter brand will make its debut in Manama, Bahrain in Q3 2021. This property, a result of Accor partnering with GFH Financial Group, will be part of the latter’s Harbour Row project. The hotel will boast 160 rooms in the brand’s signature light-hearted minimalist style, alongside a rooftop pool offering exceptional views of the city. Hilton Bahrain Bay Hotel & Residences is also set to open around the same time in The Avenues in Manama.
The most anticipated luxury opening of Kuwait this year will be the Waldorf Astoria Kuwait. Originally scheduled to open last year, this five-star luxury business and leisure hotel will be connected to the Avenues mall, the largest retail outpost in the country. It will feature 240 guestrooms, will form part of the extension of the mall's popular prestige district.
Other planned openings in Kuwait include the Hampton by Hilton located in Salmiya, the 108-key InterContinental Al Thuraya with its nine food and beverage outlets, Staybridge Suites Kuwait Salmiya, and Canopy by Hilton Kuwait.
With a winning bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and a national objective to diversify its economy, Qatar has been gearing up for an expansion of its tourism sector with investment being channelled into infrastructure development and construction of hotels, malls, conference centres, and entertainment attractions.
Hotel openings to expect this year include The Plaza Doha Anantara Hotel & Suites, The B Premiere Hotel (a member of the Centara Boutique Collection), Centara Grand Hotel Doha; and Centara Al Bustan Hotel Doha.
On the Omani front, some 96 hotels of various classifications are expected to open by 2020-2021, the Ministry of Tourism had announced early last year. While it remains to be seen just how many of these will come to fruition, Jumeirah Muscat Bay is currently under development and is expected to open sometime in 2021.
Set in the secluded cove of Bandar Jissah between the Al Hajar Mountains and the Gulf of Oman, this exclusive resort is just 15 minutes south of Muscat city centre and 40 minutes from Seeb International Airport. In addition to 206 spacious rooms, the hotel includes a state-of-the-art Talise Spa with luxurious treatments for those looking to unwind, and world-class bars and restaurants for memorable dining and sunset drinks.
Other properties to likely see a 2021 opening in Oman are the new Avani Muscat Hotel, Alila Hinu Bay, the boutique, five-star Dhabab Resort and further down the line The Mandarin Oriental, Muscat, and The St. Regis Al Mouj Muscat Resort.
Saudi Arabia is a hot bed of development with four giga projects - Neom, Qiddiya, Red Sea Project and Amaala - in various stages of design and construction. The major hub cities of Jeddah, Dammam and Riyadh are getting much-needed, branded project upgrades.
AlUla, with its haunting Unesco Heritage Site, is set to be a major tourism highlight with its upcoming uber luxury hospitality portfolio, including brand collaborations with the likes of Aman.
Meanwhile, Red Sea Development Company, the developer of the mammoth tourism project on Saudi Arabia’s west coast, said it signed deals with a large number of hotel companies for the project’s first phase and will reveal the line-up of operators soon. The company, which is owned by the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, is developing 16 hotels with 3,000 rooms across five islands and two inland sites as part of the first phase that will be delivered by 2023. Phase one also includes construction of a new international airport.
The world's first Warner Bros. branded hotel – The WB Abu Dhabi – is currently in development on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. Set to open in 2021, The WB Abu Dhabi will be located adjacent to the award-winning Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi theme park and is set to be a major addition to Yas Island's immersive hospitality and leisure attractions.
The 434-key 25hours Dubai Hotel will be part of a premium mixed-use lifestyle destination next to the Dubai World Trade Centre. When it launches in early 2021, this new hotel will offer guests a range of unusual amenities and facilities, including pottery and artist studios, a calligraphy bar and an outdoor cinema. The property’s room categories - instead of the usual ‘standard’ or ‘superior’ categories - include Bedouin, glamping, farmstay or artist village rooms.
Rove Expo 2020 at Al Wasl Square will open in October as the only hotel within the EXPO2020 site.
Other hotel openings to expect this year include the Marriott Palm Jumeirah (September), the 75 storey SLS Dubai in Downtown Dubai, The St Regis Dubai - The Palm (May), Corinthia Meydan Beach Dubai in Dubai Marina, Hilton Palm Jumeirah, the ultra-luxurious Dorchester Collection Dubai, Rixos Jewel of the Creek, the 210-key Dubai EDITION, and Legoland Resort Dubai, just steps away from Legoland Dubai and Legoland Water Park.
Further afield, some new properties to look forward to globally in 2021 are El Fenn, Marrakech, co-owned by Vanessa Branson, sister of Richard; Treeful Treehouse EcoResort in Japan, where rooms are actually perched in the trees; the Aurora Lodge in Norway stark with its simplicity and allowing unfettered views over fjords and the northern lights; Canyon Madness Ranch, New Mexico, an outdoor luxury adventure playground on 14,000 acres in northeastern New Mexico, and Patina Maldives, Fari Islands, the inaugural flagship property from Capella’s new lifestyle brand Patina Hotels & Resorts.
By Rashi Sen
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