The Gulf Cooperation Council
Since its establishment in 1981, the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) has functioned as a regional intergovernmental, political and economic union. The GCC consists of the following members: United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. This region is home to one of the fastest growing economies worldwide, thanks mostly to the increasing value and vast amounts of precious natural resources such as oil and natural gas. This growth has led to massive investments on service & infrastructure and ultimately to an exponential increase of business travel.
Long-stay travel in the GCC: A booming demand
The entire business accommodation supply is taking off in the GCC, due to the growing demand for business accommodation, being the long-stay segment (A.K.A. “extended stay”) the hottest topic.
The GCCs long-stay accommodation supply is still rather limited and dominated by regional brands and locally managed operators. Nevertheless the serviced apartment supply is rapidly growing in order to meet the demand's needs and expectations, thanks to the growth of key sectors and the globally renowned events planned to take place during the next years.
Serviced apartments in the GCC: Premium inventory
Serviced apartment properties in the GCC, in particular the international brands, offer as much quality as a top-of-the-range hotel and are typically located within a hotel or exclusive residential area. The range of amenities offered is usually high-class (restaurant, bar, swimming pool, gym, etc.).
The apartments themselves generally offer exceptional comfort, space and modernity, with an excellent value for money proposition. Contrary to some other markets, shared apartments are very rare in the GCC region, as privacy and exclusivity play a big role for the local traveler.
Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, and Qatar are the fastest growing destinations in the serviced apartment sector, mainly because they are the leading hubs with international development in various areas. They also offer the best accommodation inventory in terms of international brands.
Things to keep in mind when traveling to GCC for business travel
In terms of climate, the rather desertic landscape causes the temperatures to vary significantly between winter and summer. While December till February usually sees average temperatures of 10°- 22° Celsius, the months of May till September see an increase to temperatures of around 26°- 42°C on average, recording maximum temperatures of 50°C in the shade in some cases.
Every year Ramadan marks a special month in the local calendar. With many businesses closed for its entire duration (30 days), the region experiences overall a drop in working hours and a notable decrease in both leisure and business occupancy. Local dining and leisure habits shift as a general rule from daytime to nighttime.
Despite the steps the region is taking towards a form of westernization and gender equality, business travelers should pay special attention to the local dress code. Informing yourself about all the exact particularities of your destination is the best course of action.
Public transport systems are modern and efficient, fares being very affordable. Because of many past and upcoming events such as the Expo 2021 in Dubai and the recently postponed FIFA 2020 in Qatar, there has been a strong investment in the public and private transportation systems.
Even though Arabic is the official language, public information, such as street names and public transport, can also be found also in English, which is frequently used across GCC for business purposes.
What about bleisure? GCC countries are often regarded as rather expensive destinations. This is far from the truth. Living and leisure costs in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar are similar to those in other metropolises such as London, New York or Paris. The offer of high-end, luxury services is plentiful. Nevertheless most dining options are rather affordable except for alcohol. Alcohol is well served in bars and clubs mostly within hotels. In terms of sports, football is by far the most popular, followed by cricket, horse and camel racing.
An uncertain future?
Dubai is projecting a rapid increase in supply, also driven by the six-month World Expo 2021. Qatar is witnessing an increase in supply on account of the FIFA World Cup 2022 and the World Aquatics Championships in 2023, which is expected to attract over a million visitors to the country. The host countries of these events have already initiated various construction projects to be completed through 2022.
Even though some major events and projects in the region are currently on hold due to the global pandemic, we believe that the Gulf Cooperation Council union members are going to resume their promising trend in the near future.
About the author: Rogerio Lima is a hospitality professional with over 20 years of experience in the industry. He has worked for global hospitality brands in Germany, Brazil, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. He joined Acomodeo in 2017 as a sourcing lead expert for projects in the Middle East and the Americas.
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