Oil-rich Kuwait is in hot pursuit of tourism diversification that is sure to transform the country into a regional standout. Aleksandra Wood explores.
STEADY AS SHE GOES
Following a fruitful year of game-changing advancements, Kuwait is ready to showcase its meticulously perfected tourism offering in 2020. Last year, the State was busy working on numerous developments to prepare for a brand-new decade, striving to achieve a front running place in the regional tourism race.
In 2019, the country’s corporate segment gained significant prominence internationally, with business travellers to Kuwait superbly catered for year-round, while its leisure industry is still in its blossoming stage, with regional holidaymakers showing notable interest in Kuwait for family getaways.
General manager, The Regency Kuwait, Otto Kurzendorfer exclusively told TTG: “The leisure segment is still the major contributor with a good number of GCC visitors coming for a family stay over the weekend. In addition, a substantial contribution comes from local citizens through short weekend stays, while the business segment mainly contributes during the weekdays through some corporate visits, events and conferences.”
To further support these segments and stimulate both international and regional tourism alike, Kuwait’s aviation sector has taken matters into its own hands with the steady expansion of its networks, offering greater connectivity supported by cutting-edge infrastructure. One of the biggest developments the country’s aviation sector witnessed was the opening of the Kuwait Airways terminal T4 in late 2018, which is seeing substantial return.
And while Kuwait Airways holds down the fort, the country’s leading low-cost airline, Jazeera Airways, is also keeping one step ahead with its own advancements, mainly focusing on neighbouring countries within the Middle East. Last month, the carrier proudly marked the commencement of services to Al Ain in the UAE.
Speaking on the inaugural flight during its reception ceremony was chairman, Jazeera Airways, Marwan Boodai: “Jazeera Airways’ new flights to Al Ain is a milestone for our airline, which has been growing steadily and providing reliable services to customers in the Middle East, Asia and Europe. We are very pleased to be serving customers from Kuwait and [the rest of] our network with flights to the unique region of Al Ain.”
Following this, Jazeera Airways was quick to introduce yet another direct route in December 2019, this time to the capital city of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, Dammam. The route operates three times weekly on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, with the airline now boasting a fortified network in the Kingdom, offering services to a total of six destinations: Riyadh, Jeddah, Madinah, Taif and Dammam. Maintaining significant presence in Saudi Arabia will in turn secure a steady visitor inflow from the country to Kuwait.
On the hospitality front, the State’s hoteliers have also been keeping a watchful eye on the rise in tourism arrivals, looking to elevate Kuwait’s hotel scene and stimulate competition.
The first gem to open its doors to residents and visitors this year was Swiss-Belboutique Bneid Al Gar Kuwait, gracing Kuwait City’s beachfront promenade. The four-star lifestyle property arrived this month, representing the very first hotel in the Middle East under Swiss-Belhotel International’s upscale brand, and is home to 64 impressively appointed guestrooms, ranging from Superior Rooms and Deluxe Rooms to Junior Suites and Premium Suites.
Enthusing on the debut was senior vice president, operations and development – Middle East, Africa and India, Swiss-Belhotel International, Laurent A. Voivenel: “We are very excited to expand our presence in the GCC with an exceptional hotel such as Swiss-Belboutique Bneid Al Gar. With its excellent location and unique offering, we are confident that Swiss-Belboutique Bneid Al Gar will be a natural choice for visitors looking for a memorable experience. We look forward to welcoming guests at this charming hotel, which is our flagship property in Kuwait.”
Meanwhile, local industry experts have joined forces with internationally recognised brands to introduce hospitality first timers to the country. Hyatt Hotels Corporation will celebrate a debut of its own in the State this year, with the opening of the 261-key Grand Hyatt Kuwait. The hospitality giant has partnered with local real estate developer, Tamdeen Group, to bring the ultra-luxuriant brand to the country, with the property set to comprise premium shopping and retail areas, as well as unique leisure and entertainment sites.
“Kuwait is increasingly becoming a major gateway city, so we are delighted to announce this plan to bring the Grand Hyatt brand to this global business and cultural hub,” senior vice president, acquisitions and development for Hyatt – Europe, Africa and Middle East, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Peter Norman opined. “It is a pleasure to execute this project with Tamdeem Group, which is well known for the impeccable quality of its developments. We look forward to welcoming guests to Grand Hyatt Kuwait, where they will be able to experience the innovative design, dramatic architecture and superior service for which the Grand Hyatt brand is known.”
BRING ON THE NEW DECADE
Further down the pipeline, Kuwait-based Alshaya Group, a leading international franchise operator, has unveiled plans to bring the Canopy by Hilton brand to the State. The upper-upscale project will be situated on Arabian Gulf Street in the popular Bneid Al-Gar area, within close proximity to downtown Kuwait City. The development stage of the hotel is slated to commence soon, with the opening planned for late 2022.
President of Hospitality at Alshaya Group, James Tynan elaborated on the project: “Canopy by Hilton is an exciting young hotel brand, which is already attracting international attention for its unique guest offering. We believe the brand is a perfect fit for the Kuwait market and look forward to welcoming guests when our doors open in 2022.”
Hilton Hotels’ president for the Middle East, Africa and Turkey regions, Rudi Jagersbacher shared that the brand responds to a growing customer preference for upscale hotels that fit authentically into local neighbourhoods and cultures.
“We can tick all the boxes with our plans to bring the brand to Kuwait – with a great location in a great neighbourhood and a trusted partner in Alshaya Group,” he stated.
Accommodation is not the only focal point of industry stakeholders’ strategies, as Kuwait has been leveraging its investment in high-end retail malls and cultural centres.
Kurzendorfer of The Regency Kuwait revealed: “The country has recently witnessed the opening of several luxury retail shopping malls, featuring unique clusters of iconic brands. The cultural scene in Kuwait has also evolved, following the opening of Jaber Al Ahmad Cultural Center and Abdullah Al Salem Culture Center, [aiming] to captivate the visitors with Kuwait’s deep-rooted cultural offerings.”
Looking ahead, Kuwait will rely on its Vision 2035, deemed a ‘gateway to the future’, which is deeply rooted in moving the country away from its oil-based development model to a more diversified economy. Its tourism industry will continue to raise the standard across all sectors to compete with international tourism powerhouses and transform into a regional standout.
“The quality of service and innovation of product will remain at the core of our value proposition for 2020 in order to face the local and regional challenges,” Kurzendorfer explained to TTG. “Hence, we will continue to bring creative packages and innovate our product offering to respond to the competitive changes in the local and regional market.”