The Middle East and Africa (MEA) hotel development pipeline comprises 491 hotel buildings, which gives a total of 120,795 rooms, according to the June 2013 STR Global Construction Pipeline Report. The total active hotel pipeline data includes projects in the "in construction", "final planning" and "planning" stages, but does not include projects in the 'pre-planning' stage.

Among the region's key markets, Dubai, has the largest number of rooms under construction with 10,391 rooms. In five other markets, more than 1,000 rooms were reported to be under construction, such as Riyadh (5,598 rooms); Abu Dhabi (3,727 rooms); Jeddah (2,213 rooms); Cairo (1,744 rooms); and Amman (1,547 rooms).

 

In January of this year, Dubai's occupancy rates topped an average of 89.6 percent, according to TRI Hospitality Consulting - an average increase of 4.2 percent on the previous year. This is typically the busiest month in the region. Several hotels including Sofitel Palm Jumeirah, Anantara Royal Amwaj and Oberoi Business Bay are yet to be completed.

 

More recently, Riyadh's declining hotel performance has stabilized after hitting a much lower 57 percent last year. An influx of new properties across the Middle East is set to dramatically affect performance.

 

Meanwhile, online hotel bookings are steadily gaining popularity in the Middle East as more consumers in the region use the Internet to search for affordable hotel rates. In 2012, hotel bookings from the GCC region totaled US$1.6 billion, 10 percent of which were made online according to PhoCus Wright's Middle Eastern Online Travel Overview.

 

Hotels across the UAE are well aware of their guests' growing preference for online bookings. In Abu Dhabi, the newly-launched Nehal Hotel reported that nearly half of their rooms were now booked online.

 

Samer Al Kabalan, General Manager of the Nehal, said "the online travel industry in the Middle East is growing at a rapid pace. So far this year we have seen 45 percent of our bookings come from online sites."

 

Wael El Behi, General Manager, Ramada Downtown Dubai, a property situated near the Burj Khalifa, said: "Year to date as of end of June, 39 percent of our business mix is coming from the online segment which represent 46 percent of our revenue mix."

 

With hundreds of hotel websites now available, consumers today face an overwhelming abundance of choice. To further complicate matters, these sites often post different rates for the same hotel, causing users to spend hours comparing prices online.

Saudi Gazette

21 July

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