Commenting on the survey, Yousef Wahbah, MENA Head of Transaction Real Estate at EY said:
“Hospitality markets across MENA witnessed a less than ideal performance in 2015, compared to 2014. While occupancy rates increased across some markets in 2015 such as Cairo, Madina, Muscat and Ras Al Khaimah, revenue per available room (RevPAR) across most MENA markets was lower compared to 2014.
Dubai beach hotels and Jeddah hotels had the highest room yields in MENA, recording an average of US$311 and US$214 respectively in 2015. Cairo saw the biggest improvement in RevPAR in 2015, increasing by 34% compared to 2014, largely due to the improved political environment, however occupancy was still lower than most MENA cities.
Despite the decrease in RevPAR, markets such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah, which saw an influx of new international hotel chains in 2015, recorded very impressive performance indicators. Dubai and Abu Dhabi maintained the highest occupancy rates in the region in 2015 at 80.0%, followed closely by Ras Al Khaimah at 75%, competing with the high occupancy rates of cities such as London, New York and Tokyo.
The demand for Dubai beach hotels has always outstripped supply and it is expected that this trend will continue. In terms of city hotels, competition is growing, as an increasing number of four and three-star properties are underway. The market share of this tier of hotels has been increasing over the three years, proving to be a resilient category of hotels during downturns. Hotel owners as now seeing three and four star hotels as a worthwhile investment alternative to five-star hotels.
The same trend of three and four star properties has also been seen in Saudi Arabia. Sixty percent of domestic travelers in Saudi Arabia, travel by land and the remaining 40% travel by air. This highlights a great potential for budget hotels that could serve as stations during land journeys, typically developed in the outskirts of a city where land prices are cheaper. Performance in Riyadh and Jeddah has been steady in 2015, however the budget deficits that the country is currently facing may affect the pace of project development.
Looking to Doha, the city has been trying to reverse the trend of being an expensive destination relative to other cities in the GCC with high average daily rate (ADR) and low occupancy rates. A new tourism strategy adopted by the Qatar Tourism Authority is aiming at attracting a bigger volume of tourists; growing the leisure segment, and trying to capture more non-GCC arrivals. The country is developing several tourism products throughout Qatar, such as eco-lodges and desert hotels, to diversify its tourism offering and spread tourism density away from Doha. This diversification strategy should allow transferring travelers from airport transits to longer stays.
The overall outlook for MENA hotels in 2016 looks challenging, evidenced by the lower hotel performance in January, which is considered to be high season in many MENA markets. With the exception of Manama, Cairo and Makkah, all the MENA hotel markets witnessed a decrease in RevPAR in January 2016 compared to January 2015.
It will be difficult for hotels to maintain the same performance as 2015 this year, and it’s expected that there will be a minimal decline in RevPAR in 2016. Several factors point to a flat or negative performance in 2016, including reduced economic growth due to lower oil prices, less liquidity in the region, reduced visitors from Europe, Russia and China due to currency fluctuations and the uncertain macroeconomic conditions.
While there have been no major delays or cancellations in terms of mega projects, we may see this happening in the second half of the year if economic conditions do not improve.”