BTN Europe presents an overview of business travel and MICE predictions for this year
Virtual Event - 25-26 May 2021
Virtual Event - 9 June 2021
Thursday 9th September, JW Marriott Grosvenor House
Last week's WTM jamboree yet again brought together the entire world under one roof, as the airlines like to say and despite some cynicism concerning its value; it is very much here to stay.
It was rather bizarrely however, scheduled slap opposite the Dubai Air Show taking place at the same time - has that ever happened before? - meaning that several major airline CEOs were not present as they announced mega deals in the desert.
But among all the usual razzmatazz, music, dancing and general bonhomie, one region in particular stood out.
The Middle East put on a powerful display of top-end airlines and hotels, confirming its place with a collection of enormous stands and vast visitor numbers and laying claim to be the world's single most vibrant - and wealthy - area.
And particularly from a business travel perspective. All the key airlines and hotel groups were there - Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, Refad, Rotana et al - with the hotel boom in particular, showing absolutely no sign of slowing down.
In a bid to differentiate itself from the plethora of chains mushrooming across Dubai, the Emirate above all that continues to show astonishing growth; the Refad group has developed an extraordinary property - The Monarch.
Guests at the admittedly pretty pricey property - rates range from $600 to $10,000 per night although in fairness you have a whole two floors and swimming pool for that - are picked up by limousine from the aircraft itself and whisked to a VIP lounge where all passport and visa formalities are handled.
As if that wasn't enough, a 24h butler is also provided and although that might sound excessive, this is a region where at the Dubai Air Show, one of its princes bought an Airbus A380 for private use - the bar is automatically high and nobody bats an eyelid - you get what you pay for.
Dubai is a place whose stratospheric statistics would make even the most hardened bean-counter's eyes water. Next year there will be a further, note further, 22,000 hotel rooms added, while by 2010, there will be an extra 55,000 compared to today.
Last year saw five star properties in Dubai - and there are a fair few number of them - report an 80% occupancy rate as tremendous demand fuels an ever-changing cityscape.
Rotana Hotels also has four new openings next year in Dubai, with the Rose Rotana featuring the tallest all-suite property in the world, along with the Amwaj Rotana Resort and Al Sufouh Suites.
Actually headquartered in Abu Dhabi, Rotana says that the first Formula 1 race there in 2009, is sparking enormous interest, while developments such as the first Ferrari theme park, are also driving need for accommodation.
One of the key factors that makes the region unusual is that the dirham is pegged to the US dollar. And given the greenback”s precipitous slide - it reached $2.10 to one pound sterling last week -this is clearly good news for tourists and business travellers who may now find some of Dubai's higher-end properties suddenly affordable.
The currency situation coupled with the news that Dubai-based airline, Emirates, signed a staggering deal for new aircraft just shy of $35bn this week, is further proof - if it were needed of the region's exponential rise.
Silverjet is due to start very shortly with its all-business offering to Dubai, while a raft of airlines is beating a path to the Middle East. More and more are offering through services to Australia, challenging the traditional Kangaroo routes operated by British Airways and Qantas via Singapore and creating new opportunities as bilateral deals allow increased services.
It's nothing new, but this year's WTM heavily underlined the power wielded by the region. As energy becomes ever more politicised, the Middle East is leveraging its vast potential not just as a series of mega-hubs for connecting travel, but as a destination in its own right.