Strong recovery in Middle East: Kempinski

Timur Sentuerk

While international travel still lags behind 2019 levels, Kempinski Hotels witnessed a strong recovery of international travel in the first half of 2023: Middle Eastern properties of the international hotel group have shown impressive results and are globally the first region of the brand to sur-pass pre-pandemic levels.

“Dubai is amongst our best-performing destinations,” Timur Sentuerk, Chief Operating Officer Europe, Middle East & Africa and Member of the Management Board Kempinski Hotels, tells TTN. “According to the latest figures from Dubai Tourism, the city welcomed 9.8 million international tourists up until July of this year, which is higher than the 9.6 million visitors recorded during the same period in 2019. Especially Indian and Russian travellers are flooding the destination, which clearly reflects in our revenue and occupancy of our luxury Dubai properties.”

At the moment, the hottest hotel transactions globally are in the Middle East – this will continue at least for the next decade. Longer term, I believe the African continent will be the next blue ocean, with some terrific emerging destinations
– Timur Sentuerk

Sentuerk has already overseen several exciting new management agreements since joining Kempinski in April 2022, including properties in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.



Kempinski Residences The Creek Dubai will reinforce the Kempinski presence in the UAE in the coming years, and four upcoming properties in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia demonstrate the company’s commitment to further growth in the Arabian Peninsula.

Meanwhile, The David Kempinski opened its doors in Tel Aviv, bringing new levels of luxury to the Israeli capital, with 250 rooms and 56 spectacular suites, including a three-storey Penthouse Suite. Performance data so far was very strong. “The outbreak of military conflict in the Middle East will certainly deal a severe blow to economic confidence in the region. The possibility of a broader Middle East conflict has significantly added to the sense of global instability sparked by the Ukraine conflict almost 20 months ago.”

“At the moment, the hottest hotel transactions globally are in the Middle East and that will continue at least for the next decade,” says Sentuerk. “Longer term, I believe the African continent will be the next blue ocean, with some terrific emerging destinations and an emerging middle class. Three luxury safari lodges currently under development in Tanzania will be the first new Kempinski properties in Africa in a while and will add to our existing portfolio in Kenya, Djibouti, Seychelles and Egypt.”

The most competitive market in the region is certainly Doha due to the large number of recent hotel openings to cater for the FIFA World Cup. Kempinski Hotel for many years manages the outstanding Marsa Malaz Kempinski Doha, located at The Pearl-Qatar, the recognizable man-made island off the coast of Doha. Timur Sentuerk believes that new demand for the destination will ease the current oversupply in the coming years. Another outstanding performer is Jordan, as it saw a significant increase in tourism revenue in 2022, with a growth of over 100 per cent. This corresponds to a recovery in visitor arrivals, with 5+million visitors compared to 2.4 million in 2021. The outlook for 2023 looks even more promising, with the Kingdom’s tourism revenue growing by 80 per cent in the first quarter compared to the same period in 2022. “Our three hotels, the outstanding Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea on the lowest point on earth, the one in Aqaba and the one in Amman, performed strongly”, adds Sentuerk, “which applies also for the Kempinski Hotels in Egypt.”

The Kingdom of Saudi-Arabia is arguably the world’s epicentre of new mega projects. Salaries and wages hike for speciality positions as more new hotels are opened in the market. People from across the globe are being headhunted. “We are very proud to see our employee engagement is strong and our most recent Gallup survey delivered even higher results than in 2023. For MEA, we need to prepare for a robust retention strategy, starting with salary and wage considerations for key performers.”

The fastest-growing segment of the luxury brands business are currently Kempinski Residences. These present an opportunity to deliver the first-class hospitality offerings for which Kempinski is known in the discrete and intimate setting of a private residential environment.

Alone in the last 12 months, Kempinski was able to sign contracts for five new residences in Dubai, Turkey and Armenia. There is a growing appetite for luxury residences, both as investment vehicles for regional HNWIs and as homes for foreign residents. For owner-residents, branded residences provide security and peace of mind as well as the promise of luxury living, which is especially appealing in emerging destinations. Opting to make properties available as part of the hotel’s room inventory means residences can also become a source of revenue, which is also appealing for investors and owners who only want to use the residence for a limited time each year.

“Apart from the residences we have around 26 new projects in our development pipeline around the globe with new exciting destinations such as Brazil,” states Timur Sentuerk. “Furthermore Kempinski has intensively worked on moving from analogue to digital, be it externally or internally.