Hotels throughout the Middle East region are preparing to capitalise on the pent-up global demand for workations, driven in the main by the social restrictions imposed by governments across the world over the past ten months.
According to research conducted as well as commissioned by Reed Travel Exhibitions, the organiser of Arabian Travel Market (ATM), many travel experts are expecting a surge in workations in 2021 and beyond, a trend that was apparent in 2019, but one which now has such pent-up demand due to the coronavirus travel restrictions.
Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market, which will take place live at the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) 16-19 May 2021, said: “The hotel industry in the Middle East has gradually started to recover, especially in places such as Dubai. Staycations created the initial demand after lockdown, the next step has been the continued growth of workations, which are also referred to as bleisure stays, which tend to bring in more visitors from overseas.”
Fueling this growth are companies like Facebook, Twitter and Spotify which have announced that employees can work from home indefinitely, leading many experts to predict that these digital professionals are likely to work remotely, whilst still connecting safely and securely with their physical offices.
“Longer term, the ‘on the go’ executive will be a far more common sight in hotels, whether it’s Gen Z singletons, millennial professionals, or freelancers who can earn a living from a laptop,” added Curtis.
With over 50% of the world’s working population doing so from home and the rise of entrepreneurial digital nomads who prefer to work remotely, the popularity of workations will only increase.
This will alleviate the boredom of living and working from home, even after the pandemic has finally been eradicated and obviously in the short term, it will provide much needed revenue to not only hotels but the travel trade in general, not to mention government coffers.
“And on that point, as an example, Dubai has introduced a remote visa programme that would entitle visitors to stay for up to 12 months, with access to co-working spaces and government support services,” said Curtis.
To accommodate the needs of the ‘new normal’ smart working traveller even further, an increasing number of hotels in the MENA region are offering pop-up co-working spaces with the aim of rethinking and making the most of the hotel space, which is no longer considered just as a place to stay, instead, it becomes a potential work environment.
“Covid-19 has completely disrupted the traditional office culture and the hospitality sector has been quick to offer alternative solutions for those looking to combine working from home with leisure time. The introduction of the workation concept is not just a novel idea, it’s about making adjustments to meet the new market demands, allowing those who are not currently working from their office to enjoy a luxury hospitality experience whilst continuing their work commitments,” said Mark Kirby, COO of Emaar Hospitality.
Further afield in the Maldives for example, hotels are offering the ultimate ‘workation packages’ where guests can work from a secluded beach house, with personal desks and high-speed WiFi. Some hotels in India have created indoor and outdoor common areas that function as work-friendly spaces, many others have opted for dedicated spaces poolside where remote workers get a table, chair and parasol, WiFi and power socket, as well as the ubiquitous sun lounger.
“Depending on the effectiveness of the vaccines being rolled out, as well as travel and other social restrictions, this demand could broaden to include families. If children are being home-schooled it would make little difference if they were at home or on a workation with their parents. Indeed, time away from long cold winter nights in northern Europe, would undoubtedly improve a family’s state of mind,” added Curtis.
Now in its 28th year and working in collaboration with DWTC and Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), the theme of the show next year will be ‘A new dawn for travel and tourism’ and the spotlight will be thrown onto the current state of the industry and more importantly, what the future holds. It will also look at the emerging trends and how innovation can drive the industry forward.
ATM 2021 will also play an integral role in Arabian Travel Week and for the first time, a new hybrid format will be in place. This means an additional virtual ATM will be organised to run the following week, which will complement the live event by accommodating visitors who may be unable to travel to Dubai. The inaugural ATM Virtual 2020, attracted 12,000 online attendees from 140 countries, over three days.