Kuwait’s tourism and hospitality sector is still playing catch up compared to its GCC peers. But with visitor numbers expected to grow to 570,000 by 2027, the oil-dependent nation is making serious efforts to diversify its economy
Hotelier Middle East takes a look at Kuwait’s changing hospitality sector as the country shows growth in supply.
In the past couple of years, as the oil prices have started to fluctuate and dip, countries within the GCC have been steadfastly trying to diversify their economies. One of the prominent strategies for these countries to adopt has been to pivot to tourism and invest in its development. For Kuwait, which as of 2017, drew about 40% of its gross domestic product (GDP) from oil revenues and where oil generated an impressive 92% from export revenues, the shift to tourism has been a gradual one as its slowly waking up to a probable reality of a post-oil era.
However, unlike its neighbours like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Kuwait’s tourism industry is relatively underdeveloped. In 2017, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the direct contribution of travel and tourism to the GDP accounted for only 2.8% of the total GDP. The Kuwaiti government, however, is actively trying to push for positive and steady growth in the tourism and hotel sector with a vision of attracting 440,000 visitors annually by 2024. And this, Swiss-belhotel International senior vice president of operations Laurent A. Voivenel says is “fuelling demand for quality hotels”.
“The government is making huge investments in enhancing tourism infrastructure as well as developing new leisure and lifestyle attractions. It is the perfect time for us to enter Kuwait when the country is evolving into a multifaceted destination with the development of diverse attractions for both corporate and leisure visitors,” Voivenel adds.
According to TRI Consulting director Christopher Hewett, corporate travellers make up the largest segment of the Middle Eastern country and drove the most demand for hotel room nights in 2017. “Corporate demand remained the largest demand driver with 38.3% of room nights, followed by non-allocated at 22.9%, retail at 19.3% and leisure at 13.0%,” Hewett reveals.
Copthorne Kuwait City lobby.