Kuwait has big plans for the future and the Gulf state’s tourism industry is reflecting these ambitions with major investment, construction and development set to continue over the next decade. Emily Millett reports.
Kuwait is no stranger to tourism investment and development, with the past year having seen competition heat up as new hotels and facilities enter the market.
According to WTTC’s ‘Travel and Tourism Economic Impact Kuwait 2017’ report, the industry was expected to attract capital investment of $374.7 million in 2016, with this figure predicted to rise by 3.7 per cent in 2017, and then 1.5 per cent per annum over the next 10 years to $449.7 million in 2027.
Speaking to TTG about this continued growth in investment and the subsequent shift in balance between supply and demand was cluster director of marketing communications, Kuwait Marriott Hotels, Khadija Meftah: “2017 was a bit tough for the hospitality industry in Kuwait, especially with the oversupply in the market with all the new hotels that are opening and the huge drops in oil prices. However, the JW Marriott Kuwait has managed to get its fair share of business due to the innovative and creative initiatives and packages that the hotel offers.”
According to Meftah, Marriott’s award-winning hotel loyalty programme, Marriott Rewards, has played a key role in helping to keep the property in demand.
“Marriott Rewards has the largest base of active frequent business travellers of any lodging industry loyalty programme, providing a cost-effective, revenue-building mechanism to reach the most profitable customers. This has definitely helped to make JW Marriott Kuwait the preferred destination for all Marriott Rewards members when they travel to Kuwait,” she said.
And existing hotels like JW Marriott Kuwait aren’t solely relying on loyal clientele to keep them afloat, with the property having conducted major renovations during 2017, including a full room refurbishment and ballroom renovation, to give the product a fresh and more modern look.
“This has helped to generate more business and sustain the hotel’s position as one of the most luxurious properties in Kuwait,” commented Meftah. “The hotel has also launched a wide range of partnerships with various airline companies to increase its share of business and raise awareness on its products and services. For 2018, the main goal will be to work on more partnerships, whether locally or regionally, as they play a major role in driving more business and revenue to the hotel.”
And this fast pace of investment is set to continue, with a number of hotel chain giants currently expanding their portfolios into Kuwait. Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts opened a new five-star property in Burj Alshaya in August this year, and plans are in place for the launch of the new Mercure Kuwait around the end of 2017. Hilton Hotels & Resorts is further cementing its presence with the scheduled opening of Hilton Olympia Kuwait in 2019 and Hyatt Hotels Corporation is due to open a Grand Hyatt in 2020.
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) recently signed an exclusive agreement with its long-term business partner, Bukhamseen Group, for further hotel development in Kuwait, as chief operating officer, IMEA, IHG, Pascal Gauvin told TTG: “Our relationship with the Bukhamseen group goes back over three decades, and together we have established a strong presence for IHG in Kuwait, with three operational hotels and one under construction. With this signing, we look forward to increasing the momentum of our growth in the country.”
MEETING CUSTOMER DEMANDS
Although Kuwait has almost exclusively been driven by the business tourism market in the past, the destination started to open up to new sectors over the last decade, broadening its tourism horizons to embrace new customer demands.
“The quest for longevity and healthier lifestyles will be the new drivers of travel demand and Kuwait has the potential to compete in this growing market as the general interest in outdoor and working holidays is growing fast,” resident manager, INN and Go Kuwait Plaza Hotel, Michael Nielsen told TTG.
“Knowing our clientele, determining their needs and always focusing to provide the maximum level of efficient customer service will always keep our edge in the market and our development efforts will maximise the returns.”
Having launched the new brand in August 2016, INN and Go Kuwait Plaza Hotel is now also focusing on positioning itself in the Kuwait market, as Nielsen explained: “This year, a decent number of hotel competitors are opening in Kuwait, hence our approach for the last quarter and for 2018 is for continuous product and service development. The installation of additional high-quality CCTV cameras and the continued improvement of guest rooms, public areas, meeting and banquet halls are all in the pipeline.”
Meanwhile, responding to the ever-evolving needs of the current travel market visiting the destination, Radisson Blu Hotel, Kuwait is currently working on improving its wedding offering, after witnessing increased demand for the niche service.
“One of our focus segments is weddings,” assistant marketing manager, Radisson Blu Hotel, Kuwait, Tomas Cermak explained to TTG. “We appointed an experienced wedding specialist who follows the newest trends worldwide and in the region, and combines them with the traditions in Kuwait.
“We are also buying new equipment following the latest trends in the country. Guests are very important to us and that’s why we implemented a lot of new procedures to make them feel more welcome and make their stay hassle-free, adding new additional services and enhancing our leisure facilities,” Cermak added.
WORK AND PLAY
With corporate travel still a major player in Kuwait’s tourism scene, the industry is also exploring ways to evolve this sector in tune with the needs of today’s travellers.
Commenting on the rise in business guests looking to enhance their trip with leisure pursuits, Nielsen told TTG: “The future buzzwords for travel in Kuwait could be ‘Bleisure’ and ‘Daycation’, as business travellers increasingly look to explore the area and gain new cultural experiences, in addition to fulfilling their work-related matters in the country that they visit.”
Meanwhile, at Symphony Style Hotel- Kuwait, business guests are increasingly using online solutions to book their hotel experience, as the property’s general manager, Peter Schuler said: “Digitisation is both shaping and influencing the travel sector. More travellers are booking their vacations, business trips and staycations online and on the go.”
The hotel has identified this as a crucial way of reaching out to guests, and the Quorvus Collection’s new website and mobile applications allows for better reach and online engagement with guests.
“The mobile app enables guests to avail of the extensive range of services on offer at the hotel, from booking their stay, requesting airport transfers, early check-ins, booking meeting rooms, spa treatments, a table in one of our restaurants or learning more about the leisure facilities on offer. Coupled with our exemplary customer service, the app enables us to be there for the guest every step of the way,” Schuler told TTG.
Radisson Blu Hotel, Kuwait is also focusing on its online channels, not only through website development, but also through online travel agents and social media channels, which, according to Cermak, play an important role not only in GCC countries but also worldwide.
“As the younger generations are starting to travel more and more, they bring a lot of new trends into the industry. They are living in the online world; online reservations, check-ins, orders of room service. They want things that are as easy to use as possible and hassle-free,” Cermak concluded.
Keeping a firm focus on the mainstay business tourism sector, Kuwait is pouring investment into further developing its travel industry, expanding into new areas and attracting new markets.