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Michael joins Rotana Hotels from Qatar National Hotels where, for two years, he held the position of sales & marketing Director. He has gained considerable international experience in hotel-related sales and marketing from his 22 years in the industry. This included 16 years in various positions with the Intercontinental Hotels Group. Marshall”s role is to assist with developing the local, regional and international sales & marketing set-ups of Rotana Hotels, in keeping with the aggressive expansion plans of the company to double the size of its portfolio within the coming two years
Can the Gulf sustain its current tourism levels?
The maths are simple: More visitors equal more hotels. Do the numbers in the Middle East and you see the theory put into practice. It is a visitor magnet attracting a rising number of people to the region year on year.
Trade in the region has been steadily increasing alongside tourism. If the past three years are anything to go by then growth is set to continue. Last year was a record for tourism in the Middle East and the sector is expected to grow by approximately 7% annually according to UNWTO figures. That means anticipated arrivals of 68.5m by 2020.
In Dubai alone, currently the hottest city in the region in terms of development, tourism arrivals are expected to hit 15m by 2010 - that's only two years away.
Apart from the obvious attraction of Dubai, what else is driving visits?
It is not just Dubai; the Middle East is already the fourth most visited place in the world according to a survey by Deloitte and passengers by air are increasing more rapidly than anywhere else. This is a huge opportunity for the hotel industry and they would all like to get in on the act.
In addition to the already positive figures and the attraction of the region for the European visitor, especially UK holidaymakers and business travellers, the Middle East will also benefit for the predicted growth in long-haul travel.
How are the mechanics of the region coping with the influx of visitors?
In line with growth figures the entire region has been gearing itself up to cope with the demand in terms of new developments and improving existing travel and tourism infrastructure such as airports. Travel and tourism-related industries have been experiencing exponential growth including airlines and hotels and most have ambitious plans going forward.
All of the region's airlines, Emirates, Gulf Air, Qatar and Etihad are expanding their route networks, experiencing record passenger figures and placing large new aircraft orders.
It is also widely known that every major global hotel brand, if it doesn't already have a strong presence in the region, plans to build one there and as quickly as possible.Industry statistics predict the Arabian Peninsula would see the opening of up to 80 new hotels in the three years up to 2008.
How does Rotana view the Middle East and what are the challenges?
Rotana is no exception. We already manage 24 properties in the Middle East with a further 41 in the pipeline and our strategy is to be in every key city. We're not alone in our aggressive expansion.
The region has had its fair share of political and economical challenges, which are unlikely to disappear overnight. However, the sheer volume of investment and developments and the positive attitude from the people has made for a strong hospitality industry that has a tendency to bounce back time and time again.
The other potential downside is that there are already predictions of a slowdown as development costs continue to rise, the lack of skilled labour takes its toll and continued instability drives some people away from certain areas. Some of these issues we can't influence while others such as the labour shortage we can tackle head on. There is a supply of local people, ready and willing to grow with an industry recognised as being very much part of the future. Investing in these people”s training to meet customers' expectations and high service standards is therefore the way forward.
Despite these issues, the region and the industry are fighting hard to stay in the spotlight. Already famous for its hospitality and year-round climate, it is now becoming sought after for many other leisure pursuits such as skiing, shopping, culinary experiences and sports events such as the Grand Prix, tennis, golf and horse-riding.
On top of all that, the existing hotels are of a very high standard and they are only going to get better.