The temporary housing market in the Middle East is one of the most well established amongst the emerging markets. Driven by cultural preferences and large volumes of historic corporate travel, Middle Eastern cities typically offer a wide array of budget, mid-range, and high end long-stay accommodation well suited to relocating assignees. Unlike other regions, a significant portion of properties in the Middle East catered to stays of 30 nights or more prior to the pandemic.
Following two years of restricted travel and increased legislation affecting mobility, how has the temporary housing market in the region responded? Fresh from attending the Arabian Travel Market in May, Sacha Sandhar, SilverDoor’s International Expansion Manager, made the following analysis:
The world’s emerging markets have experienced varied rates of recovery as international travel has returned. The Middle East nations have bounced back more quickly than those of the Far East. Consequently, the UAE, for instance, is forecasting 5 – 6 % growth in GDP for 2022.
By embracing vaccination early on, Dubai has successfully kept infection rates low whilst being much more economically open and active, compared with the likes of Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Key drivers behind the economic bounce back include:
- Low entry restrictions driven by vaccination status
- Early domestic adoption of all available vaccinations
- High public confidence in implemented Covid measures, resulting in a high uptake of vaccine
- A flexible and emergent pandemic strategy
Whilst not as open and relaxed in its ongoing management of Covid as Dubai, Abu Dhabi has benefitted from the overall approach adopted by the UAE, resulting in low infection rates and minimal impact on its corporate and industrial activity.
Qatar adopted a transformational economic diversification strategy to fuel its post-pandemic recovery and encourage inward investment. Key pillars for the new economy are a diversified private sector, sustainability, globalisation, and the attraction of the best talent in their respective industries.
Corporate Mobility into the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) nation, already with one of the highest percentages of corporate versus leisure travel, is expected to continue to increase as the above strategy is implemented. The government defence investment company, Barzan, has also entered joint ventures with several European companies which constitutes a large percentage of current relocation movement.
Modernising the Middle East
Modernisation programmes are prompting further integration with western markets and international business travellers in several Middle Eastern hubs.
Post Covid initiatives make Dubai a centre for the western market in the Middle East. Since 2016 Dubai has relaxed licensing rules during Ramadan, allowing hotels and restaurants to serve food and alcohol during the day. Under the rules, bars are authorised to remain open, and food halls are no longer required to be partitioned and covered. It is expected that this relaxed approach will continue moving forward.
Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi aims for corporate as well as cultural expansion - Al Reem Island is one of the most desirable and affluent areas to live, whereas Saadiyat Island is up and coming as a cultural hub with The Louvre being established there. Corniche is the centre of the city and industry (with headquarters for Baker Hughes and Adnoc), and Masdar City is being developed as a hub for sustainability and eco-industries.
Red Sea Resorts, a large inward tourism investment project, has been launched in Saudi Arabia with completion expected at the end of 2022, with major accommodation brands such as The Rosewood, Ritz-Carlton, and Miraval already signing contracts to develop resorts within the development.
An official pronouncement is expected from the Saudi government in advance of completion surrounding the relaxation of laws restricting the possession or sale of alcohol in the Kingdom. This further encourages inward tourism and the attractiveness of the Kingdom as a place for Westerners to live and work.
Encouraging global mobility and remote work
Under a new virtual working programme, internationals can relocate to Dubai (from outside the UAE) and continue working for their existing organisation remotely.
Who is the virtual working programme for?
The virtual working programme is for people who live and work outside the UAE, start-ups, and entrepreneurs who meet the eligibility criteria. If an application to live in Dubai is approved by the UAE’s authorities, the applicant can also bring their family with them.
The programme is valid for one year, renewable upon re-application.
To apply for the programme, applicants need to have a passport with a validity of six months (minimum) and valid health insurance covering their residency in the UAE.
The future of temporary housing in the Middle East
For many Westerners, Dubai represents the heart of the Middle East from a cultural and business perspective. Consequently, the city tends to receive the majority of relocation assignments in the region.
In the last five years Dubai has continued its evolution from thriving economic centre to global multicultural hub, and I foresee Doha and Abu Dhabi continuing to make strides in the same direction. Indeed, some relaxation of cultural and post-pandemic restrictions could well see the cities rival Dubai in terms of their appeal to relocating assignees. In short, the rise of the temporary housing sector in the Middle East shows little sign of abating.
About SilverDoor Apartments
The world’s leading companies trust SilverDoor Apartments to source their temporary accommodation.
Having worked with global mobility professionals for over 20 years, our expert teams provide an unparalleled, personal service that saves corporate clients time and money. With our industry-leading online booking tool, Orbi, travel managers can make instant online bookings, view detailed reports, and track their assignees across the globe.
Our offices in the UK, US and Singapore mean that wherever you or your guests are, we’re ideally positioned to provide 24-hour support and the utmost levels of care and guest wellbeing.
With SilverDoor Apartments, temporary housing is taken care of.