The Middle East: A growing luxury travel destination.
Last year, the size of the luxury tourism industry exceeded $17 billion in the United States. Despite setbacks from years of the pandemic, the market is still growing and on pace to be worth more than $82 billion by 2030.
This huge growth is driven, in part, by big sporting events (think Super Bowl packages), baby boomers spending more money to travel with their loved ones, and millennials with disposable income. However, a large part of the industry’s success also comes from an increased demand for safari and other animal-watching experiences in the Middle East and North Africa (also known as the MENA region).
While MENA’s outdoor activities are fueling the boom, the Middle East also has much more to offer both leisure and business travelers. From stunning architecture to world-class meals and five-star hotels, this region is becoming a hotspot in luxury travel–and the hospitality industry is taking notice.
This year, several new luxury hotels have opened all across the Gulf countries. Now, travelers with their eyes on the Middle East have their pick of the newest high-end properties. Whether it’s the Ritz Carlton Amman (which happens to be the brand’s first hotel in Jordan), the Nobu Hotel Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, or the Jumeirah Muscat Bay in Oman, there’s no shortage of luxury accommodations.
New York City’s iconic Waldorf Astoria is another brand with its eye on the Middle East. The upscale Hilton chain recently debuted the Waldorf Astoria Kuwait, located in the country’s capital city. Complete with a 13,000 square feet spa, a library, multiple restaurants, and more, the newest Waldorf Astoria was modeled after the original Big Apple location. The 200-room hotel is also home to 44 suites, including the top floor’s 3,700 square feet Royal Suite.
Inspired by growth in the region, Hyatt is also expected to follow suit. The Grand Hyatt Kuwait, the country’s first Grand Hyatt, is set to fully open at the end of the year after partially opening this summer.
The company already has 28 properties in the Middle East and plans to open seven more within the next three years. One of those properties is Saudi Arabia’s Miraval The Red Sea, which will be the first time a Miraval resort opens outside of the United States.
Hospitality giant Hyatt credits their MENA expansion to increased demand for both leisure and business travel in the area. Large events, like the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, have also made the region an attractive spot for new properties.
If Hilton and Hyatt are eyeing the Middle East, it should be no surprise that Marriott is also increasing its presence in the region. In fact, Marriott International recently announced it will open more than 20 new properties throughout the Middle East by the end of next year. Driven by a high demand for luxury tourism, Saudi Arabia will be home to six of those new properties. Tourists can also expect to see new Marriott hotels in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Kuwait.
As comfort continues to drive the increase in luxury travel among millennials and baby boomers, it is a good investment for the hospitality industry to take note in growingly popular destinations. Especially as big names like Hilton and Marriott are getting in on the trend.
Danilo Diazgranados is an independent investor in the global food and wine, financial services, real estate, and the hospitality sectors.