The end of Expo 2020 will not result in a drop of economic growth. Expo’s structural economic influence ended in 2019, as large projects neared completion. Businesses operating in the UAE will enjoy better performances in 2022 than in 2020–2021, supported by recovering private demand. However, industrial performances will vary, and challenges will linger. MNCs should factor in elevated margin pressures, as input costs remain high and supply chain disruptions will protract through 2022. B2B firms will see demand from the energy, construction, and service sectors recover more quickly. As for B2Cs, the total addressable market will improve markedly in 2022 but remain lower than in 2019 due to the slow return of white-collar expats.
Expo 2020 welcomed more than 5.6 million visitors in its first two months. Around 30% of all visitors were non-residents (tourists); India, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, and the UK were the top source nations for tourists visiting the UAE in October and November 2021.
Tourism arrivals were recorded at 5 million in the first 10 months of 2021, with visitor numbers expected to have exponentially grown in Q4 2021. October recorded a million visitors alone.
Hotels in Dubai are recovering markedly, with operating profits soaring by 160% YOY in October 2021. Occupancy rates grew to 64% in October, with the length of stay 12% higher than in 2020 and generating 57% more revenue per room.
The first Omicron coronavirus variant was detected at the start of December in the UAE, but cases remain very low. As of mid-December, the UAE achieved 91% full vaccination, with over 99% of the population receiving at least one dose. The country is accelerating its already-enhanced booster-shot rollout, and a third of the population has already received boosters.
In addition, new business licenses grew by 4.5% in Q3 2021, driven by Expo 2020.
Expo 2020 is boosting private sentiments in the UAE, as businesses ponder expanding capacity to capitalize on the recovering demand. However, Expo has not structurally altered the UAE’s economic growth potential in 2021, and its conclusion will not result in a drop-off in economic activity. Expo 2020 did not attract new tourists but rather it spurred the urgency to roll out vaccines and ease mobility restrictions. FrontierView expects continued growth in tourism activity and domestic consumption in 2022, but we remain cautious because Omicron-driven outbound travel restrictions in Europe and MENA could disrupt arrivals in Q1 2022.
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