While some experts have predicted a slowdown in Dubai’s hospitality sector due to an oversupply in hotels being built in preparation for Expo 2020, Hilton’s president of global development, architecture, design and construction said he does not see a drop in market activity.
Speaking to Arabian Business, Ian Carter said tourists will continue to fly to the city following the six-month event, which is due to attract an expected 25 million visitors.
“When you look at Expo, it is another great marquee event that Dubai has attracted due to airlift from Emirates. You have a great destination here with a lot of attractions, so I don’t see a dip in [the hospitality market] after Expo 2020,” he said.
Carter compared Dubai to Chicago in 1893 when it hosted its first world fair, adding that both cities had already been established before the arrival of their expos.
He recalled experiencing Dubai’s transformation today compared to two decades ago, when it housed only a handful of hotels.
"I first came here 20 years ago… and there were only two or three hotels on the beach. It's interesting to see how much Dubai has changed and developed, especially with the addition of all the new tourism destinations and hotels in the city,” he said.
Carter was speaking at a conference in Business Bay announcing that Al Habtoor Group’s three hotels in Al Habtoor City will be rebranded as Hilton hotels under a franchised agreement effective from August 1.
In July, Jumeirah Group CEO Jose Silva stated that Expo 2020 might result in a sluggish hospitality market for up to three years after the exhibition takes place.
“You may have a small stagnation after [Expo 2020] for a few years, 2-3 years, but my experience is that it only helps [markets] grow, because once you have more supply and offerings, inevitably, you will have more tourism. And it will soon after be fully consumed and growth will continue,” he had told Arabian Business.
Silva, who took part in a number of world exhibitions during his career, said Expos have been “transformational” in most cities where they have taken place.
“Expo 2020 is certainly the perfect moment to increase tourism infrastructure, be it in hotels, restaurants etc. It really allows you to invest and increase your tourism infrastructure,” he said.
In January this year, Emaar Hospitality CEO Olivier Harnisch said hotels are not built for six-month events such as Expo 2020, but for long-term market development.
The chief executive warned against constructing hotels just for the event, which will see developers add 50,000 rooms to accommodate 25 million visitors expected to visit Dubai.
“I don’t know if anyone would build hotels just for expo. We’d be foolish if we built hotels just for Expo,” he told Arabian Business at the Gulf and Indian Ocean Hotel Investors’ Summit (GIOHIS) in Abu Dhabi.
Harnisch said tourism in Dubai is growing fast enough to keep up with the long term effect of Expo, which will strengthen Dubai’s position as a world city and project it as a real tourism destination beyond leisure.
“This is a very dynamic market. Even putting aside the expo factor, supply is growing fast, but demand is also growing fast. Tourism in Dubai is growing by 7-8% every year. This is tremendous. It is about two million room nights that come every year, on top of what we have already. And this demand needs to be accommodated, so I’m very optimistic,” he said.
He added that there is no reason to believe the momentum will change.
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