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Dubai lures UK travel firm as Saudi rivalry intensifies

Holiday Swap Dubai Dubai Department of Tourism
Tourists enjoy a teahouse in Dubai: the emirate's efforts to attract foreign investment have lured UK company Holiday Swap
  • Holiday Swap will create 500 jobs
  • It lists 1,200 UAE homes
  • Dubai HQ a win in FDI rivalry with Saudi

Holiday Swap, a UK travel tech company that allows people to find holiday accommodation by swapping homes, is to establish its headquarters in Dubai. 

Its new office will be located in Dubai Internet City. It aims to support 500 jobs there within two years.

The vacation exchange and booking platform has more than one million monthly users worldwide and is the latest company to join the UAE’s NextGen programme for foreign direct investment (FDI).

Founded in 2018, the company has more than 120,000 listed properties across 185 countries, including the UAE where it has 1,200 listings.

These range from a luxury four-bed villa in Dubai suitable for up to 10 guests for $922 per night to a one-bed apartment for $55 per night.

Holiday Swap aims to feature 400,000 properties by the end of 2023.

Its move to Dubai follows strong growth in the emirate’s short let market in the second quarter of the year.

Ramadan, normally a slow period, had a record number of visitors to the emirate, with 1.35 million people arriving during the holy month. It was a 50 percent increase from pre-pandemic figures, according to letting agency AirDXB.

Overall, 8.55 million tourists visited the emirate between January and June, recording 20 percent year-on-year growth. This exceeded the pre-pandemic figure of 8.36 million in the first half of 2019.

Holiday Swap is the latest victory for Dubai in the rivalry between the UAE and Saudi Arabia to become the main business centre in the region. 

While the UAE has NextGen FDI, Saudi Arabia last year launched the National Incentives Committee to back up its RHQ Programme, designed to encourage multinational companies to establish their regional bases in the kingdom.

“Holiday Swap reflects the continuing success of the NextGen FDI programme in attracting pioneering companies across a diverse range of economic sectors,” Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign trade, said. 

James Asquith, founder and CEO of Holiday Swap, said establishing the new HQ in Dubai will enable the company to leverage the UAE’s reputation as a “powerhouse in the travel and tourism industry”.

The Emirates attracted 60 percent of the $37 billion of FDI that came into the GCC in 2022, driven by inflows from Austria and South Korea.

The World Investment Report 2023 by the UN Conference on Trade and Development said FDI flows into the UAE were up 10 percent, to $23 billion in 2022.

Last month the UAE announced plans to establish a ministry to attract FDI to the country.

Earlier this month Saudi Arabia set up a promotion agency for FDI as part of its own ambitious plans.