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Driven By Dubai's Vibrant Hospitality Industry, the UAE
 Has 52,566 Hotel Rooms in Active Pipeline

By Issac John, Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab EmiratesMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

March 18-- DUBAI -- Driven by Dubai's vibrant hospitality industry, the UAE recorded the largest number of new hotel rooms under way in the Middle East and Africa region, latest data from STR Global shows.

The UAE continued to post the largest number of rooms in the total active pipeline with 52,566, followed by Saudi Arabia with 14,178. Among the major markets in the region, Dubai ended February with the most rooms in the total active pipeline with 30,139, followed by Abu Dhabi with 14,171, while Lebanon was one of two countries, which reported less than 1,000 rooms in development. However, the number of new hotels being added to the development pipeline of the Middle East and Africa region slowed down in February.

Analysts said the slowdown in the number of new hotel projects in the region was not reflective of any downturn in the industry.

According to STR Global, the Middle East and Africa region has a total of 457 hotels in the development pipeline, just one more than the previous month. The research company's February report said that there were 124,142 rooms in development, up by about 400 on January. In January, 14 new hotels were added to the development pipeline, compared to the last month of 2009, while hotel rooms under construction grew by more than 3,000. Among the hotel sectors, three accounted for more than 70 percent of the total active pipeline -- the Upper Upscale segment (31,434 rooms); the Unaffiliated segment (31,448 rooms); and the Luxury segment (26,366 rooms).

The Economy segment was responsible for just 3.9 percent of February's development pipeline with 4,889 rooms.

The report said that the region currently boasted more than 576,544 hotel rooms with a further 71,331 rooms under construction. On Tuesday, research firm Proleads said the GCC would open 38 new hotel rooms per day this year.

Dubai-based Proleads said in its latest research that 48 hotels with 14,178 rooms were set to open in 2010 in the Gulf region at an estimated cost of $7.3 billion. Though the global economic recovery remains uncertain, new hotels are continuing to open up across the Middle East, said Maggie Moore, exhibition director of The Hotel Show.

"While much of the recent attention has focused on the impact of the downturn on the hospitality sector, the UAE continues to be one of the world's active areas for hotel openings," said Moore.

The UAE alone has over 5,700 rooms coming to market in 2010. Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are also seeing increased activity.

Facing up to this double-edged challenge, a panel of hotel industry experts is to discuss strategies for dealing with the global economic downturn at the Middle East's leading dedicated trade event for the hospitality and leisure sector.

The session on innovative management in challenging times will be part of The Seven Star Conference, which is part of The Hotel Show, taking place at the Dubai World Trade Centre from 18-20 May 2010.

"The Hotel Show provides a useful barometer for the industry on how equipment, materials and service suppliers, marketing and sales strategies are being affected by the uncertain economic climate," said Maggie Moore, Exhibition Director of The Hotel Show.

The Saudi Arabian hospitality sector looks set to grow in tandem with inbound travel on the up, both in terms of religious tourism and business visitors," Moore added. It is forecast that there will be another 21 hotels with 7,000 hotel rooms in Saudi Arabia by 2013, 2,000 of which will open this year."

A total of 1,961 new hotel rooms are expected to be added to the Qatar hospitality market during this year, according to Proleads, with a total of 21 new hotels coming online by 2013. Last year the number of available hotel rooms in the country increased by 25 per cent compared to the previous year.

"Existing hotels throughout the wider Middle East and North African region have been showing modest signs of recovery," said Moore. Once economies start to pick-up steam and hotel occupancy rates begin to increase, hoteliers will quite rightly be in a cautiously optimistic mood."

issacjohn@khaleejtimes.com

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To see more of the Khaleej Times, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.khaleejtimes.com.

Copyright (c) 2010, Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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