The UAE hospitality and tourism industry's recovery is likely to accelerate in 2021 driven by its Covid-19 vaccine push and easing travel restrictions in a few markets, government officials and hoteliers said.
Abu Dhabi expects its hotel occupancy rates to improve to at least 80 per cent this season, from 70 % in 2020, Saood Abdulaziz Mohamed Al Hosani, undersecretary of the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, told The National.
"While we forecast a substantial recovery for Abu Dhabi’s tourism sector in 2021 ... our focus remains on delivering high-quality, exciting experience with health, safety and well-being as our number 1 priority," he said. "Abu Dhabi is ready to welcome more and more new arrivals in a protected climate."
The UAE, a regional tourism and business hub, can bank on its speedy Covid-19 vaccination campaign, the hosting of the Dubai Expo world fair in October, open borders and visa reforms, that will raise the number of people to the country, officials and hoteliers said.
Abu Dhabi plans to expand its Green List (countries, regions and territories that you could travel from if traveling to the emirate) and anticipates an increasing number of countries to be put into it in the "near future", the DCT official said.
The DCT's Green List, which currently consists of 14 countries, is continually being reviewed based on Covid-19 developments globally. It is designed to allow travellers from select destinations to enter the capital with no need to quarantine.
"Given the extraordinary efforts which have been designed to ensure public safety, we are looking at easing travel restrictions for international tourists allowing for even more people to safely enjoy their visit to Abu Dhabi," Mr Al Hosani said.
The UAE's high rate of vaccinations administered per capita will have a "positive impact" on its travel agreements with countries, which would rely upon certain health insurance and safety criteria, he said.
"The necessary preventative measures will also stay in place for the well-being of our community, while we enable more incoming travel without compromising our safety standards," Mr Al Hosani said.
The DCT official also expects the return of in-person business conferences and events as the department works with stakeholders to make sure public health remains important, he said.
Industry analysts expect the recovery of business travel to lag behind leisure trips as companies trim budgets and video-conferencing technology becomes typical.
Neighbouring Dubai, which opened its borders to international visitors in July 2020, is optimistic about the industry's outlook this year.
"As we build on the strong rebound in 2020 and as confidence continues to grow within the industry and among travellers and with vaccinations being rolled out all over the world, we expect to see momentum accelerating throughout 2021," Issam Kazim, leader of Dubai Tourism, told The National.