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Travel and hospitality news from the Middle East. All the important stories, exclusive interviews, plus authoritative opinion and analysis

One of the four restaurants in the Palazzo Versace Dubai hotel, which is listed on the Emirates Auction website

Palazzo Versace hotel sale aims to ride Dubai tourism wave

Owners of Dubai’s ultra-luxurious Palazzo Versace hotel are looking to capitalise on the emirate’s tourism boom before it peaks, offering it for sale at nearly AED1.4 billion ($380 million). A source familiar with the asset told AGBI the hotel is being “readvertised” as it has not found a buyer willing to meet its price tag […]

An extension of Diriyah's Bujairi Terrace, a popular nightspot, will open in November

Diriyah giga-project to open first hotel in November

Diriyah, one of Saudi Arabia’s leading giga-projects, will finally open its first hotel in November along with other attractions and sites, its CEO said this week.  “This November we’ll open another few kilometres of parks, we’ll open our first Bab Samhan hotel, we’ll open our first museum which is the Diriyah Art Futures Museum, we’ll […]

King Abdulaziz International Airport: the number of international flights increased but there were less than 27.4 million international visitors to the kingdom last year

Passenger numbers rise 26% in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia said this week that its total number of air passengers rose 26 percent to 112 million in 2023. This includes a 46 percent rise in the total number of international travellers to 61 million.  The number means the kingdom’s airports are approaching full capacity, which is 116 million passengers a year, including 45 […]

Tourists visit the tombs of the Nabatean civilisation in AlUla. Saudi Arabia's goal is for tourism to make up 10 percent of GDP by 2030

Affluent tourists around the globe on Saudi Arabia’s radar

Saudi Arabia will invest more than $800 billion in its main giga-projects by the next decade as part of a tourism expansion strategy focused on affluent tourists in China, India and Europe.  The kingdom’s tourism minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb, speaking at the Qatar Investment Forum, said: “We’re building and investing in major destinations like Neom, Red […]

Almost all of Lebanon's visitors in the first quarter came from the Lebanese diaspora

Tourist numbers drop as Western visitors avoid Lebanon

Inbound tourism to Lebanon fell 13.5 percent year on year in the first three months of 2024, mainly as a result of Western tourists staying away, data released by the country’s Ministry of Tourism shows. It is the latest indication of damage to Lebanon’s post-crisis economy caused by the ongoing border conflict between Hezbollah and […]

Tourists photograph the Abu Dhabi skyline. Travel funding is small compared to how much tourism contributes to the economy

Travel startups seen as ‘high risk’ by VC investors

The co-founder and CEO of Dharma, an Abu Dhabi business travel management platform, has claimed the tourism sector isn’t seen as attractive enough for investors.  Dharma, which was one of the first startups accepted into Abu Dhabi’s Hub71 incubation programme, closed a $4.7 million Series A funding round last year. “I think for venture capital […]

The Salalah festival in Oman: the sultanate’s tourism sector is likely to contribute more than $8.6bn to GDP this year

Club Med resort tipped to help Oman hit tourism targets

Tourist arrivals in Oman are forecast to nearly double over the next four years, boosted by developments such as the region’s first Club Med resort. Analysts at BMI expect visitor numbers to rise by a quarter to 5.3 million this year – and reach nearly 11 million by 2028. The sultanate’s tourism sector is likely […]

Saudi Rotana Dakar Senegal

Rotana reveals plans to reflag hotels in Saudi Arabia

Rotana, the Abu Dhabi-based hospitality company, is looking at aggressive expansion in Saudi Arabia, including taking over already operational hotels, its chief executive has revealed to AGBI. At this month’s Arabian Travel Market, Rotana outlined plans to launch nine new properties in Saudi Arabia within four years, aiming to double its rooms to more than […]

The five-star Barceló Al Jaddaf in Dubai, formerly Occidental Al Jaddaf, will open in the fourth quarter of 2024

Spain’s Barceló expands reach in Middle East and Turkey

Spain’s Barceló Hotel Group is intensifying its focus on the Middle East, Africa and Turkey this year with plans to invest more than $400 million as part of its global expansion strategy. The move includes opening hotels in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Turkey. The company will expand its portfolio in the Middle East by […]

Hajj pilgrims arrive at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah

Saudia allocates 1.2m seats for Hajj pilgrims  

Saudia, the national flag carrier of Saudi Arabia, has allocated more than 1.2 million seats for the 2024 Hajj Season across its fleet of over 150 aircraft. The operational period for the carrier during this year’s Hajj will span 74 days, starting from May 9, encompassing both inbound and outbound stages. Saudia Group, one of […]

Jaumur Neom resort gulf of Aqaba

Neom announces superyacht resort on Gulf of Aqaba

Plans to build a high-end resort town on the Gulf of Aqaba aimed at the luxury yacht community have been announced by Neom, despite rising doubts about Saudi Arabia’s ability to maintain funding lines for the country’s giga-projects.  The new project, Jaumur, was described by Neom as an “exclusive residential community set around an inspiring […]

A Diwali celebration held during Expo 2020 in Dubai. GCC officials want to work together to prevent event clashes

Tourism chiefs call for GCC-wide events calendar

Gulf Cooperation Council nations should co-ordinate their event schedules to avoid overlaps and entice tourists to make multiple stops in the region, officials have said at the Arabian Travel Market conference. The six GCC governments – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – are exploring ways to co-operate on tourism, including a […]

Family boards an aeroplane. There are 213 airlines operating in the Middle East, says the OAG report

Qatar dazzles as Middle East aviation picks up pace

The Middle East’s aviation sector is growing at twice the global rate and is expected to offer 257 million passenger seats this year, according to a new report. Not so long ago major airlines viewed the Middle East as a place to get cheap fuel on their way from Europe to South East Asia. Now […]

illegal pilgrims Mecca Saudi Arabia

Illegal Hajj pilgrims risk fines and deportation

Fines for Saudi nationals and deportation for foreign residents taking part in the Hajj pilgrimage without a permit have been announced by the country’s interior ministry. Those who help illegal pilgrims also face jail as the kingdom tries to impose stricter controls over the annual rites.  A fine of SAR10,000 ($2,700) will be issued against […]

Riyadh Air CEO Tony Douglas at the unveiling of the airline's livery. The company is waiting on its first order of Boeing Dreamliner 787s

Riyadh Air expands with fleet of narrowbody jets

The new Saudi airline Riyadh Air will announce a fleet of narrowbody jets later this year for a first-phase expansion that will eventually include a new terminal to meet Saudi tourism ambitions. Although its widebody aircraft come from the troubled manufacturer Boeing, Riyadh Air declined to say if the latest narrowbody orders would be from […]

Tourists stop for a breather at a cafe in Cairo's Khan el Khalili souq. About 14.9m people visited Egypt in 2023

Tourists keep flocking to Egypt as conflict rumbles on

Egypt’s visitor numbers rose 27 percent in the first four months of 2024, according to its vice minister of tourism and antiquities. The tourism ministry aims to increase inbound visitors by 25-30 percent this year, as it chases a target of 30 million visitors a year by 2030. Tourists from Arab countries accounted for the […]

A pilgrim prays during a visit to Mount Al-Noor in the holy city of Mecca. Saudi Arabia is building an additional 320,000 hotel rooms by 2030

Pilgrims remain bedrock of Saudi tourism plans

Saudi tourism is to undergo a massive expansion with religious travellers remaining its bedrock – but some hotel operators are wary of an overheated market. The kingdom is aiming to bring in 150 million visitors per year by 2030, with tourism accounting for 10 percent of non-oil GDP, playing a key role in its economic […]

Sora Beach Residences on Al Marjan Island will span a built-up area of 1.8 million square feet

New $1bn Ras Al Khaimah project to have 140-foot arch

A new AED4 billion ($1.1 billion) residential development on Ras Al Khaimah’s man-made archipelago will house a 140-foot-high arch, its developer has said.  Sora Beach Residences on Al Marjan Island is slated to have one the “grandest atriums ever seen in the region”, Dubai-based Aark Developers said in a statement. The 18-floor high project will span […]

Last year, there was a 29 percent increase in international tourist arrivals to the GCC compared to 2022

Why ‘over-tourism’ offers an opportunity for the GCC

The GCC region and its North African neighbour Egypt can reap the rewards of over-tourism across the globe, according to industry experts, with affordability playing a key role in fuelling the sector’s growth. The number of hotel rooms in the six countries of the GCC – Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE […]

Architecture, Building, Cityscape

Ajman sees 7% rise in hotel revenues amid tourism surge

The number of tourist arrivals in Ajman rose 9 percent year on year during the first quarter of 2024, leading to a 3 percent increase in hotel occupancy levels, according to the Ajman Department of Tourism Development. Revenue rose 7 percent year on year in the first quarter, as the average length of stay increased 5 percent, […]

Two to three cruise ships arrive in Bahrain every other Monday, carrying between 8,000 and 10,000 passengers

Bahrain port operator hopes to double cruise passenger arrivals

The operator of Bahrain’s biggest port has held discussions with international tour operators to try to double the number of cruise passengers visiting the kingdom next season. Khalifa Bin Salman Port is operated by APM Terminals Bahrain. It welcomed more than 116,000 cruise passengers in the last six-month season, which ran from October to March, […]

Nature, Outdoors, Sea South African hospitality group Mantis announced on Wednesday it will open a resort project on Bahrain’s Hawar Island in partnership with Edamah

Bahrain reveals plans to reach 2026 visitor target

Mumtalakat, Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund, has been announced as a partner in the development of a new luxury island resort which will open later this year and include a water park and a Bear Grylls Survival Academy. The opening is part of Bahrain’s wider push to expand its tourism offering – with new hotels, beaches […]