While intense competition in Dubai has driven innovation, hotels must stay aware of changing market forces and demands if they want to stay ahead.

Hicham Hassouni

Managing Partner, SHURA Hospitality

Being able to simultaneously engage with both non-Muslim and Muslim markets is the key to success for halal-friendly hospitality. Hospitality should not mean only being hospitable to a specific class or group of people; it should be inclusive rather than exclusive. There are many avenues that function with halal hospitality that also appeal to a variety of audiences, such as wellness, family-focused activities, and arts and culture. When we start talking about purpose-driven industries instead of simply compliance, we open the doors to long-term sustainability. Many of UN Sustainable Development Goals are aligned with the goals of the global halal and sharia compliance bodies. For example, sustainability plays a key role in halal industries, as one crucial aspect of halal food is preventing not only food waste, but also any form of waste, including energy usage. Reducing waste also goes hand in hand with helping local communities. My main goal is to continue assisting hotel owners and established chains to drive profitable and sustainable operations in halal-friendly hospitality. Often, the reason why halal hotels fail is because of the hotel portion of the business, not the halal portion. Therefore, my role is to work with investors to bring proven and robust hospitality business models and to help implement the halal-friendly layer in the most tactical way. I want to help owners achieve these goals without compromising on what makes hospitality such a passionate and successful business.


Alexander Schneider

Vice President, Nikki Beach Hotels and Resort

Dubai for us is the perfect match, as our beach club can benefit from those who work and live in Dubai and want to have a great time, as well as tourists from all over the world who come here specifically to enjoy themselves. We came at an interesting time point in time: Dubai had almost all the hotel brands in the world represented here in one way or another. But we were the first lifestyle resort proposition to hit the market. The demographics of Dubai's visitors have also shifted over the past years; it has become younger and more vibrant, and they come for shorter periods during stopover flights. On Dubai's hotel demand side, tourists come through various channels. Our target group behaves slightly differently, as we have many people who book either through WhatsApp, Facebook, or Instagram. We do not have many people booking via travel agencies, though we do have many who use private concierges. We cater to the top tier C-suite, though we do not focus on typical corporate travel. The reason for our current success is that we are resilient to change; the urge for disruption is sometimes a weak excuse to implement poor ideas, and we have been consistent with what we know works. If we position our brand in a way that other high-end brands like to associate themselves with, the end result will be extremely successful.


Filippo Sona

Managing Director, Global Hospitality, Drees & Sommer

Dubai's hospitality sector offers a diversity of products, brands, locations, and attractions. It is home to some of the world's most iconic hotels and resorts, renowned for incredible design, stunning facilities, and excellent service, and it continues to develop properties and concepts that push the benchmark. Dubai reports a high passenger volume and a high number of room nights. Halfway through 2019, Dubai welcomed 10.85 million guests and reported 20.55 million occupied room nights. Hotels benefit from this high volume, which allows operators to form a base for their revenue. This is relatively unique to Dubai. Since 2009, there has been a shift from an emerging economy to an established one. As Dubai's economy diversifies and matures, so does the hospitality sector. There has been a complete paradigm shift from a revenue-driven economy to a cost-driven one. When the market starts stabilizing, hotel performance reaches a more regular and consistent level, meaning it is time to adjust cost structures. Hotel investors and operators must start correcting the way they do business to suit the cycle today, because the number of rooms in Dubai has increased and there is more competition to come. The same applies to food and beverage outlets; operators need to decide how to promote their restaurants in terms of pricing, menu, and quality in order to compete. The tax system has changed with VAT, so operators also need to adjust as it adds an extra 5% cost for consumers.


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