Ajman Palace Hotel posts strong first quarter, but future of Gulf tourism may not be rosy

Author and journalist Thomas Lippman believes the Gulf tourism business faces some headwinds.
Author and journalist Thomas Lippman believes the Gulf tourism business faces some headwinds.
The Ajman Palace Hotel in the United Arab Emirates has generated a lot of interest in the region, and some of the top brass managing the hotel are excited about current growth and opportunities, but in comments on the region’s tourism industry and economic outlook, some are questioning whether that rosy outlook will continue.

A recent press release showed strong first-quarter revenues for the hotel in 2016. The heritage resort with 254 rooms and top-tier services sits on a private beach 22 miles from Dubai International Airport.

The company’s management says all of the investment in pools, beachfront development and interior design is paying off as the hotel enjoys a competitive outlook.

“The first quarter started slowly but finished very strongly.” Ferghal Purcell, the Ajman’s general manager, said in a recent press release. “Undoubtedly, the UAE and Saudi Arabian holidays were extremely positive for the Ajman Palace Hotel. We have outperformed our competitors in terms of KPIs year on year. Our occupancy has shown significant growth in comparison to 2015. … It reinforces the value of correct positioning in the market place and an outstanding product.”

Although this particular hotel seems to be doing very well, success in today's Gulf economy is not a given.

Thomas Lippman, an award-winning author and journalist specializing in Middle Eastern affairs, believes the tourism business in the general region faces some headwinds.

Lippman said there are changes in the destination appeal of cities like Dubai, where in the past, beach hotels and other attractions made the regional port city a great starting point for cruises. Some cruise companies, he said, are now thinking twice about calling on ports in the Gulf region. 

Citing factors like the rise of the Islamic state and other conflicts in the region, Lippman said the political turmoil is hurting tourism, in part, because Westerners or others in places far from the Middle East might not be able to distinguish between one destination and another.

“What's happening is that a lot of people from other parts of the world don't want to go there because it's a mess.” Lippman told the Gulf News Journal.  

Lippman said, however, that concerns over human rights issues in the region aren’t likely to have the same effect on local businesses. Issues like censorship and controlled freedom of expression are not usually big obstacles to tourist trades and “not likely to make much of a difference," he said.