The 'Short-term rentals: the end of alternative' session at SAS MEA

ShortTermRentalz review of Serviced Apartment Summit MEA 2019

UAE: International Hospitality Media hosted the Serviced Apartment Summit Middle East & Africa [SAS MEA] in Dubai this week, and the short-term rental market in the emirate was a significant focus after a number of well-documented news items emerged in recent weeks.

Leaders from the short-term rental, serviced apartment, hotel, co-working and supplier sectors convened at the Rove Dubai Marina hotel and letswork co-working space for a day that combined sessions and networking to reflect the rapidly evolving hospitality landscape in the UAE. 

From a short-term rental perspective, the notable highlights included a snapchat conversation with Airbnb MEA general manager for UK, Northern Europe and MEA, Hadi Moussa, who updated the audience present about the growth and direction of the company, a session entitled ‘Short-term rentals: the end of alternative’, moderated by Knight Frank Middle East partner for hospitality and leisure development consultancy (MENA), Ali Manzoor, and an innovation snapshot Q+A session involving leaders in the hospitality and real estate industries who can be regarded as ‘changemakers’.

The day started with a ‘mind nourishment’ meditation exercise with Mindful ME coach, Kirsty Heaton, who aimed to generate excitement and encourage a positive mindset for the day ahead.

Hadi Moussa’s snapchat conversation delved into Airbnb’s progress since its founding in 2008, where Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky initially launched a home-sharing business with sleeping bags in their living room. Since that point, the firm has grown into a multi-billion dollar firm, broadening its focus into shared room / private room / entire home and apartment ventures before diversifying into the boutique hotel industry with its acquisition of HotelTonight and also into the corporate travel and serviced apartment sectors with the launch of its Plus, Airbnb for Work and Luxe categories.

The purpose behind this according to Moussa is to build Airbnb into an “entire travel platform with an end-to-end journey”; a point he reiterated with the company’s global message of “creating a global world where everyone belongs anywhere” as the company has expanded over the past decade.

Looking ahead to the future, Moussa revealed:

  • Airbnb is committed to continuing growth in communities, particularly with its Experiences programme.
  • The launch of the company’s website in Arabic will open up accessibility to the platform for more guests and it will now look to add more supply for this audience.
  • It will look to broaden its Friendly Buildings programme beyond the US in the next few years, potentially into Europe and maybe the UAE, to enable landlords to become suitable Airbnb hosts

In the next talk, Christopher Lund, head of hotels at Colliers International MEA, gave a detailed overview of how mixed-use, serviced apartment and short-term rental operators are performing in the UAE. Now that the market for rentals is becoming increasingly regulated, platforms such as Homes & Villas by Marriott International, Ease by Emaar, Accor, Onefinestay and Wyndham Vacation Rentals are emerging on the scene, and Lund provided his own tips for how these models should be managing their inventory and strategy to position themselves for future success.

This was followed by a market analysis of Dubai’s holiday home market by Manzoor, as he explored the development of the sharing economy in the region and its impact on the UAE hospitality and real estate sectors. It paved the way for a panel discussion, moderated by Manzoor, with Reem Al-Khatib (GuestReady), Hadi Moussa (Airbnb) and Paul Mallee (Maison Privee) addressing the question about whether short-term rentals can no longer be regarded as ‘alternative’. 

On the theme of the evolution of holiday home supply, Manzoor revealed holiday homes in Dubai account for 13 per cent of hotels supply in the Emirate and that shared rooms still account for eight per cent of the market there, despite being illegal in Dubai.

GuestReady analysis:

  • The short-term rental market in Dubai has seen fantastic growth and is putting us on our tiptoes to ensure that we are delivering the best possible experience for our guests
  • Trending guest types are for mid- to longer-term rentals over the summer season
  • ADR has been down but will be much higher next year with the Dubai Expo in 2020, and the higher numbers of business travellers staying for up to six months will have a positive impact on the holiday homes sector

Maison Privee analysis:

  • It is a tremendously exciting time and the Dubai market has huge potential that will continue to drive demand 
  • Maison Privée will use the infrastructure in place to ensure a competitive playing field in the Dubai marketplace  
  • Demand is particularly high for high-end luxury villas
  • Ten million additional tourists will boost occupancy during the Expo and these nights have to be served – as a result, the STR industry will see a significant uptake in room nights for Expo 2020

Airbnb analysis:

  • There are still a lot of opportunities in the Dubai market and plenty of ways for Airbnb to capture hotels, host management and serviced apartments in an attractive and growing market
  • Airbnb is understanding where short-term rentals fit into a country’s tourism market

After a coffee break, the event took on a more collaborative format with an interactive session that has become a popular feature of IHM events – a development workshop on creating a totally unique extended-stay experience, led by HoCoSo chairman Jonathan Humphries.

For this, the audience was divided into five sub-groups, with group leaders appointed to feed back interesting ideas to the collective group. The groups included ‘investor considerations’, ‘smart room design’, ‘services and operations’, ‘public spaces and networks in the neighbourhood’ and ‘distribution and the booking experience’.

Before SAS MEA reached its conclusion, leaders from four innovative companies in the MEA region, designated as hospitality and real estate ‘changemakers’, laid out their visions for their companies and discussed how they are challenging the status quo with their respective business models. IHM CEO Piers Brown was moderator and Rana Mukherji [Hotelier Coin], Khurram Shroff [IBC Group], Khaled El Sayyad  [Prime Residential] and Mahwussh Alam [OnePerfectStay] were the presenters.

The summit was rounded off by a prize draw and networking drinks in the Rove Hotel’s restaurant, The Daily, where attendees reflected on how the wide-ranging agenda addressed the state of the hospitality and real estate industry in the UAE and MEA region overall.

To download speaker presentations, click here.

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