Dubai to see upswing in tourist traffic over Egypt woe

Turmoil on the streets of Cairo could benefit Dubai as holidaymakers reroute their plans
DUBAI TOURISM: Dubai is likely to benefit from the fallout as thousands of regional holidaymakers amend their travel plans in favour of a safer destination (Getty Images)
By Gavin Davids
Sun 06 Feb 2011 10:22 AM

The escalating political crisis in Egypt could trigger an upswing in Dubai’s tourism traffic as travellers rearrange their holiday plans, an analyst has said.

Cairo, a popular tourism destination, has been gripped by almost two weeks of violent protests as anti-government demonstrators battle to oust President Mubarak.

Dubai is likely to benefit from the fallout as thousands of regional holidaymakers amend their travel plans in favour of a safer destination, said Mona Faraj, research analyst for the Middle East, PhoCusWright.

“We’re in the spring holiday season and expectations were that Egypt, Lebanon and Dubai [would see the most traffic],” she said. “Now I’m positive that there will be no hotel available in Dubai because all of the Saudi traffic has been diverted to Dubai because of the current political situation.”

Saudi Arabia is likely to provide a significant portion of tourism traffic to the UAE, Faraj said, though European travellers also likely to push figures up.

 “It’s unfortunate, but where else would our region travel, if they’re looking for short haul destinations? Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Dubai always remain high on the key priorities of our Pan Arab region, Lebanon and Egypt are now out of the question and unfortunately there are a number of rumours about similar turmoil in Syria,” she said.

“I’m also starting to see it with the number of bookings I’m getting from my international partners. We service a number of hotels internationally, specifically in Europe, and Egypt is one of our key outbound destinations. Who’s going to travel to Egypt [now]?”

Tourism is the backbone of Egypt’s economy. In 2009, about 12.5 million people holidayed in the Arab country, bringing revenue of $10.8bn. An estimated one in eight people in Egypt are employed by the tourism industry.

John Alexander, director and general manager of PKF, a consultancy for the hotel and property sectors, said Dubai was well-placed to soak up customers re-routed from Egypt and Tunisia.

“Dubai is certainly a credible alternative destination to tourism markets elsewhere affected by monumental change and, generally speaking, the spring break tends to provide incoming business. We’ll be watching with interest and some trepidation, but [also] great expectation as current events unfold,” he told Arabian Business.

Michael Weyland, general manager of the hotel division at Landmark Group, said that first quarter was typically strong for Dubai’s tourism industry thanks to events such as the Dubai Shopping Festival. As such, it would be challenging to directly attribute any increase to Egypt.

Faraj said the regional unrest would not stop guests holidaying.

“Do we see international travellers cancelling their travel arrangements, whether on business or leisure to the GCC because of what’s happening in Egypt? Absolutely not, I think occupancy rates in the UAE prove that this is not the case.”

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