Predominantly a business hub, Kuwait has its heart set on venturing into previously unexplored realms and is working on the evolution of its leisure segment. Tatiana Tsierkezou writes.
Kuwait will stop at nothing to reach its goals. This unique Middle Eastern country is small in size yet mighty in its approach to tourism. And even though it has been traditionally characterised as a business travel destination, it is now ready to break free from its cocoon and transform into a vibrant and graceful haven for leisure activities, thrilling holidays and sumptuous cuisine.
Speaking to TTG exclusively about this was assistant marketing manager, Hyatt Regency Al Kout Mall, Sara Abdelsalam: “Boosting leisure tourism is an important part of Kuwait’s plans. New leisure amenities are likely to roll-out of several planned hotels. A number of four- and five-star resorts are likely to open in Kuwait by 2022, while Kuwait’s Partnership Technical Bureau has listed development of resorts and a marina on Failaka Island as priority projects.”
She added: “The Kuwaiti market is witnessing a strong development. Investments in the field of infrastructure and the opening of a new airport and large real estate projects have increased. Over the next three years, the tourism sector is expected to witness healthy growth rates.”
Relatively new to Kuwait’s hospitality scene, Hyatt Regency Al Kout Mall is the ideal option for leisure travellers due to its direct link to Al Kout Mall, which is home to endless shops, a cinema, over 42 restaurants and the largest entertainment facility in the country. The mall is committed to evolving its already impressive portfolio of experiences, and Abdelsalam shared that it is in the midst of constructing a dedicated racetrack for teenagers, which is being built to the highest international standards.
Further emphasising the hotel’s ability to cater to the leisure segment, she added: “The hotel offers easy access to the marina and the adjacent beach, which are just five minutes away, allowing guests to experience a unique and varied choice of accommodation.”
APPEALING TO THE GCC
Kuwait is a popular choice for leisure holidays among GCC travellers, especially among markets yearning for a more traditional, home-away-from-home experience.
Corporate manager, marketing, Safir Hotels & Resorts, Layla AlGhawas elaborated: “Kuwait’s tourism industry has grown and is attracting locals from the Gulf, predominantly Saudis and Qataris looking for a getaway close to home. As a moderate state where Gulf traditions are still honoured and respected, other GCC citizens and families in particular, tend to feel more comfortable visiting Kuwait than Bahrain and the UAE, which they feel are a little too Westernised for comfort due to the presence of alcohol, bars and parties.”
AlGhawas explained that Kuwait is particularly attractive to families looking to shop and experience diverse upscale dining options.
And shining the spotlight on F&B, Kuwait is slowly but surely emerging as a hotspot for delicious cuisine to tantalise the taste-buds, which is quickly being brought to the attention of GCC visitors.
Jumeirah Messilah Beach Hotel & Spa’s marketing manager, Ola Al Labban explained to TTG: “Kuwait stands out from its neighbours due to its cold weather in the winter, as well as its mouth-watering creative food creations. The Kuwaiti nation is known for its out-of-the-box ideas when it comes to food and restaurants.”
Ensuring all senses are catered to, Jumeirah Messilah Beach Hotel & Spa celebrated the launch of Dar Messilah Shisha Lounge in Q1 of 2019, serving flavoursome shisha and delicious bites, such as mezzeh, shawarmas and delicious zaatar wraps, all complemented by authentic and incredibly atmospheric Arabic music.
But according to Al Labban, fabulous culinary options aren’t the only reason that Kuwait is the perfect destination for leisure adventures.
She elaborated: “Outdoor pursuits are abundant across Kuwait, and for those visiting outside of the summer season, activities such as a day in the desert, water sports and exploring the charms of the city, like Souk Al Mubarakiya, offer a truly unique and authentic experience.”
Kuwait is also home to neighbourhoods that are rapidly emerging as popular destinations in their own right, offering families and individual travellers unique and varied experiences for dining or relaxation.
Al Labban shared an example: “The seafront Salmiya, located in close proximity to Marina Beach, is a good example, with a number of local eateries and shopping locations.”
But going back to key markets, Kuwait’s tourism industry is not solely attractive to the GCC market. The domestic market is of vital importance to the country, as explained by vice president – development, Shaza Hotels, Chris Nader: “Kuwait’s tourism relies heavily on domestic tourism, a market where residents like to take frequent staycations in hotels by the beach or near shopping malls.”
Eager to swap its business tourism hat for a leisure tourism crown, Kuwait’s stakeholders and investors are working tirelessly to diversify the offering, in order to catch the eye of international markets, as well as the GCC.
Nader explained to TTG that the government has adopted long-term initiatives, such as infrastructure developments and economic diversification, which are expected to positively impact the hospitality industry in the long run.
“These initiatives are very important to balance the increase in hotel supply with an increase in foreign visitation,” he said, “and we have already started seeing a positive trend in RevPAR growth since 2017. This is very encouraging for us, as we have very high expectations for our Mysk hotel in Kuwait that is currently under construction and set to open in 2021.”
Extremely excited about its Kuwait-based project, the development of the upscale hotel has been no mean feat for Shaza Hotels.
Nader further elaborated: “We have studied in great detail the socio-demographic patterns of residents who make up the staycationer segment that the hotel will surely depend on. We identified specific trends, behaviours and lifestyle habits, and have designed the hotel accordingly so that Mysk becomes the reference address for our target market.
“I cannot reveal yet the identity of the hotel and the experiences that we are creating, but I can assure you that Mysk Kuwait will be a hotel like no other,” he boldly stated.
But this is not the only development in the pipeline for Kuwait. As well as the aforementioned marina on Failaka Island, Al Labban of Jumeirah Messilah Beach Hotel & Spa explained that Kuwait is developing into a tourism hotspot due to large growth and investment in the tourism sector.
She told TTG: “Mega-billion-dollar projects have started to drive Kuwait’s tourism industry into the future, such as the expansion of the Avenues Mall and more. Over a span of 10 years, more than 25 resorts and hotels have been built in Kuwait, from Jumeirah Messilah Beach Hotel & Spa, Four Seasons and Regency to InterContinental and Hilton. Though Kuwait’s market still consists majorly of business tourists, such investments in hospitality and tourism are slowly increasing leisure related tourism.”
She continued: “This will increase in the future, especially from the GCC, due to the winter weather and traditional locations such as Kuwait Towers or Old Mubarkiya Souk.”
Finally, welcoming hospitality competition with open arms, Symphony Style Kuwait, A Radisson Collection Hotel’s director of sales and marketing, Maged Hanna elucidated: “We’ve noticed that the competition in the tourism industry on a domestic scale is increasing , especially with the opening of new hotels in Kuwait, yet, the competition is healthy and keeps us all focused on improving our services. Our message to travellers on a global scale is that Symphony Style Kuwait, A Radisson Collection Hotel, is a place where luxury and comfort collide. At Symphony Style Kuwait, A Radisson Collection Hotel, you shall experience The Exceptional.”
In order to lure in leisure travellers this year, both domestic and international, the high-end property has launched a special Summer Rooms Promotion, valid until the end of August 2019.
With its leisure proposition excelling and growing from strength to strength, Kuwait is well on its way to exceed the expectations of its industry peers, who once only perceived the destination as a business hub.