Ajman reaps rewards even as tourist landscape shifts

Tourism in the UAE’s smallest emirate is picking up.

The Ajman Tourism Development Department, ATDD, last month announced the latest tourism statistics in the emirate for the first quarter of 2015, on the first day of the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai.

“Revenues of Q1 were Dh90 million, compared to Dh77m in the same period in 2014,” said Faisal Al Nuaimi, the ATDD general manager, according to WAM.

“The number of hotel nights was doubled to 440,000 nights in Q1 of 2015, compared to only 240,000 nights in Q1 of 2014. Asian and African nationalities were high on the list of guest nights, followed by GCC nationals, and then other Arab citizens,” he added.

The number of visitors to Ajman in the first quarter of 2015 reached 120,000, Mr Al Nuaimi said, noting that hotel occupancy rate increased to 70 per cent, compared with only 56 per cent in the same period in 2014.

The ATDD General Manager said the number of hotel establishments, including hotel apartments, in Ajman reached 35 in the first quarter of 2015, compared with 30 in the same period in 2014.

The strong figures support the Ajman’s push to raise global awareness of the emirate’s tourism offerings.

“Ajman needs to show high, whether in exhibitions or in roadshows abroad to spread awareness about the emirate as a distinguished destination with unique attractions,” says Alexander Suski, the general manager of the Kempinski Hotel Ajman.

The strategy appears to be paying off.

“Ajman tourism revenues reached nearly Dh300 million in 2014, compared to Dh220mn in 2013,” says Dalal Al Marzouqi, an ATDD research and development executive.

Mr Al Nuaimi highlights the importance of opening and exploring new markets with the aim of achieving the target of five million visitors to Ajman annually by 2021, in accordance with Ajman Vision 2021 and ATDD’s strategic plan.

“Not all markets are the same, so that you have to adopt the proper promotional tools for each market,” he says.

Still, in the short term, volatility in established markets is pressuring tourism in the wider Middle East.

Fifty million people visited the region during 2014, and the Middle East easily outstripped most other regions in terms of average daily rate and occupancy levels, according to PwC.

But what no one predicted last year was the sudden and dramatic fall in the oil price, and the impact this would have on tourist numbers, especially high-spending visitors such as the Russians.

“We believe it will take time for this effect to reverse, and in the interim it will mean that supply – or more accurately oversupply – could become an issue in some parts of the region, especially at the increasingly crowded luxury end of the market,” PwC says.

The devaluation of the euro against the dollar has also led to a drop in visitors from the euro zone. The Europe Central Bank’s quantitative easing as a reaction to low levels of inflation, 0.5 per cent in 2014, is likely to encourage a depreciation of the euro and higher inflation. PwC says this would help to stimulate growth and be beneficial for tourism and the hotels market.

“However, further economic and political uncertainty has been added by the new Greek government and difficulties in Ukraine, which has historically been a strong feeder to the market to the Middle East,” it adds.

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