Hotels seeing new bounce back hope

Bahrain’s hotel occupancy levels have started to pick up in the past two months after facing one of the worst years due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Latest figures shared by an expert showed occupancy levels in September reached 22 per cent after a period of pain from mid-March until July this year.

US-based STR provides market data on the global hotel industry. Its managing director Robin Rossmann said despite a second wave of pandemic in some countries, the Gulf region’s hospitality sector was slowly showing an upward trend.

“We have started to see recovery pick up slowly in the past three months in different countries such as France, Germany and the UK that have between 30 per cent to 40pc occupancy levels,” said Mr Rossmann.

“In the Gulf countries, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha are at the top end with 50pc-60pc occupancy levels.”

Hotels were also being used for quarantine facilities which provided a helpful boost to the sector. Specifically, when asked about Bahrain market, Mr Rossmann replied: “Bahrain’s market will be below Dubai’s occupancy level of 40pc.”

The expert was speaking at the Future Hospitality Summit (FHS) hosted by the Saudi Tourism Ministry and G20 Saudi Secretariat.

The hybrid virtual conference featured heavyweights from the hospitality sector globally to discuss challenges and new ideas with more than 6,000 participants.

Confident Mr Rossmann said the Middle East and North Africa hotel’s sector will continue to grow until 2021. “Domestic tourism will dominate the market and will be a key driver for growth, as international travel will gradually resume.

“But Revenue per Available Room (RevPAR) recovery that meets the 2019 levels in most markets is likely to happen only in 2024.”

The GDN reported in September that hospitality leaders in Bahrain also predicted that the market will fully rebound only by 2024, while partial recovery could start by the fourth quarter of next year.

The forecast depends on how long the coronavirus crisis continues and the availability of vaccines.

Four-and five-star hotels were hit hardest as a result of Covid-19 regulations and the delay in opening King Fahad Causeway until January 1 has further pushed back their hopes.

Meanwhile, the opening remarks of the two-day meeting was delivered by Saudi Tourism minister Ahmed Al Khateeb who said pandemic-related job losses in the hospitality sector is expected to reach 160 million out of the total 330m jobs last year.

“This is the biggest-hit sector due to the pandemic with up to 60m job cuts in the aviation sector alone,” added Mr Al Khateeb.

“We want people to connect with each other. We want them to travel and visit other nations, to explore their history, heritage and cultures.”

Alarming figures were further released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) director general and chief executive Alexandre de Juniac in his key remarks.

He said the aviation sector losses this year due to the health crisis reached $85 billion, adding that next year the sector needs to be injected with about $80bn for sustaining operations. “This is a major catastrophe and many high profile airlines in the world are nearing bankruptcy, and only a small number of players will be left behind.”

Mr de Juniac called for a unified quarantine measures to be adopted by countries to help international travel resume, and called for testing at all airports.

“Positive cases will not be allowed to board, while those with negative results can fly,” he suggested. “We don’t expect full air travel recovery before 2022, but this could be delayed until 2024.”

Similar views were echoed by World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) president Gloria Manzo who believes business tourism will only show a recovery by 2023/2024.

“It’s safer to fly in a plane with all the health checks and air purifiers than going to see friends without wearing a mask and adhering to social distancing protocols,” said Ms Manzo.

“If you want a fast recovery, than international travel should resume immediately by following the testing and tracing mechanisms.”

She hopes quarantine measures can be replaced to ensure seamless travel.

“The rules need to be changed, for example no PCR tests required if someone is travelling from a low-risk country to another low-risk nation, for example,” added Ms Ganzo.

The Hotels and Restaurants sector in Bahrain was the most affected by the pandemic with a decline in growth of 61.3pc, according to the Bahrain Economic Quarterly for Q2 released by the Finance and National Economy Ministry

The report added that restrictions in regional and international travel reflected in the number of visitors which declined by 99.1pc through King Fahad Causeway, 95.9pc through Bahrain International Airport and 77.6pc through the ports.

Furthermore, the average occupancy rates in five-star properties declined by 69pc while the average occupancy rate in four-star hotels declined by 74pc.

Travel restrictions also impacted the transport and communications sector which posted an estimated 47.4pc year-on-year (YoY) contraction in the second quarter of the year. 

However, the ministry stated that as travel restrictions are slowly being lifted, the performance of the sector is expected to improve by the third quarter of this year.




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