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WTM news: Middle East fuels shopping centre boom

WTM news: Middle East fuels shopping centre boom

Big spenders with cash to splash are driving the trend for Middle Eastern hotels to be built inside shopping malls, reveals the new WTM Global Trends Report 2012.

The report states wealthy consumers from the likes of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have plenty of disposable income and love shopping – so mega-malls in the Middle East are booming.

International travellers, expatriates and locals wanting to buy luxury brands they cannot find at home are also seeking accommodation along with their retail therapy.

To cater for these eager globe-trotting shoppers, hotels are increasingly being built inside or next to malls, such as Dubai’s Kempinski Hotel at the Emirates Mall (voted “Middle East’s Leading Leisure Hotel” at World Travel Awards 2012) and the Address Dubai Mall attached to the Dubai Mall, one of the largest shopping and entertainment destinations in the world.

The WTM Global Trends Report 2012 – in association with Euromonitor International – said the Dubai Shopping Festival attracted 3.5m visitors in 2011, and more than 2m visitors went to the summer shopping festival Dubai Summer Surprises.

Alejandro Bernabe, GM, Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates Dubai with Graham Cooke, President & Founder, World Travel Awards

“During these festivals, hotels often record close to 90% occupancy, especially those close to or at the malls,” added the report.

There are 10 major shopping malls being built across the region, mainly in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Lebanon and Egypt.

Shopping malls and associated hotel developments are key elements in the recovery of travel and tourism in the Middle East, which saw a difficult year in 2011, with arrivals falling 10%.

However, visitor numbers are expected to rise by 4% in 2012, and 5.2% in 2013, as the impact of the Arab Spring eases – although some markets, such as Syria and Lebanon, will still suffer because of the Syrian crisis.

Reed Travel Exhibitions Chairman World Travel Market, Fiona Jeffery, said: “This trend for hotels-in-malls is a great opportunity for tour operators and hoteliers to develop tailored services for such shoppers, and even shopping packages offering multi-mall day trips.”

Caroline Bremner, Euromonitor International Head of Travel and Tourism Research, said: “The economic woes of Europe mean that hotels in the Middle East are turning their attention to guests closer to home and tapping into the demand for ‘shopping experiences’ as a key part of the overall holiday.

“For example, The Address Dubai Mall has introduced a ‘fashion fix’ service, advising customers on style during special sessions.”