Former Jumeirah CEO confident Dubai's tourism industry will bounce back

Gerard Lawless said there is plenty of opportunity for investors during current crisis

Gerard Lawless, who is an ambassador for the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), was speaking on the final day of Arabian Travel Market’s ATM Virtual event.

Former CEO of Jumeirah Group, Gerard Lawless, is confident Dubai’s tourism industry will bounce back from the devastating impact of Covid-19.

Lawless, who is an ambassador for the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), was speaking on the final day of Arabian Travel Market’s ATM Virtual event where a panel of tourism experts discuss the opportunities in the region to kick-start sustainable investment in the hospitality sector.

Dubai received 16.7 million tourists last year, according to official estimates. India, Saudi Arabia and the UK have been the emirate’s most important markets for years, though the number of Chinese visitors is climbing rapidly.

That number was reduced to zero as the emirate enforced tough movement restrictions from March in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus.

However, as Dubai gradually begins to ease those measures, Lawless is sure tourists will flock back and the industry will recover.

He said: “It is a time for opportunity and that is something investors will always look for. Investors are out there, and they will be in the future. There are investment opportunities within our industry, particularly in the hotel sector and we will see this developing and evolving over the coming weeks and months.

“Tourism will bounce back, and how we make it bounce back is so important.”

During the current economic crisis, companies across the globe have neem forced to review staffing levels across the board and businesses in Dubai have not escaped unscathed, with redundancies, unpaid leave and furloughing now common place.

However, Issam Kazim, CEO of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM), said the emirate remained a top attraction, not just for tourists, but also for businesses and industries.

He said: “Dubai has a lot of multinational companies who have established their regional headquarters here.

“Dubai has a lot to offer these businesses in terms of systems and the different free zones giving companies the opportunity and flexibility to be able to practice their business in a way that is comfortable for them. The lifestyle of Dubai also makes it very easy for people to relocate. It simply becomes an offer too good to refuse.”

The opportunities in the tourism industry for investment as a byproduct of cheaper real estate was discussed by Nicolas Meyer, EMEA Hospitality & Tourism Centre of Excellence industry leader, PwC, he said: “Many of the primary real estate markets in this region, in the UAE, Saudi, and Oman for example, are phenomenally dynamic.  Yes, they have taken a hit, but they have demonstrated in the past the ability to ramp up again and go beyond what it used to be, before anywhere else in the world, which makes one very confident in investing.”

Foreign direct investment was also a hot topic of conversation, particularly from Saudi Arabia when looking at the opportunities afforded by their burgeoning tourism offering.

Majed AlGhanim, managing director of Tourism & Quality of Life, Ministry of Investment, Saudi Arabia, said: “In addition to the local and regional buying power in Saudi, we believe we have an attractive offering for investors from overseas with all the of the new sites and destinations coming up in Saudi Arabia. We are a destination that is ready, open, and looking forward to welcoming visitors to Saudi Arabia.”

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