Winning Over the Arab Market: Hospitality Tips and Guest Relations

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THE ARAB GUEST The Arab travel mentality can vary greatly as the Arabian region stretches over a vast area encompassing 22 countries from Mauritania in the west to Yemen in the east. As the majority of Arab guests are from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), consisting of Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait, the advice given here pertains mainly to this important region. The above-named states have in common rapid economic growth due to the large oil and gas reserves. These states have been catapulted from a tribal life to relative wealth, although Dubai has always held a significant role as a trade centre in the Middle East. Tourism in the UAE is booming, and luxuries, the newest technologies and excellent service have become the norm. No wonder then that the most expensive and luxurious hotel in the world, the Burj al Arab, is in Dubai. Apart from expecting exclusively furnished hotels, Arab guests also expect respect and tolerance for their lifestyle. To the majority of Arabs, Islamic rules are the foundation of daily life. Courteous and attentive service is a prerequisite. 1. Tolerance and Sensitivity Personal recommendations and networking between Arab families are of the utmost importance and recommendations by acquaintances are given more heed than extravagant advertising brochures. The chance of winning over the Arab market through a few families is therefore very high, but at the same time, a single ‘mishap’ by an employee can ruin the reputation of an entire hotel. Family consciousness is highly regarded in the Arab region. Unlike in the West, the family is the basic social unit, not the individual. In Arab society the weak are respected and protected, and the elderly are always afforded special respect. Arabs behave in a reserved manner towards Europeans and react very sensitively to a lack of respect and intolerance. To avoid such conflicts, sensitivity and empathy are of great importance. 2. Travel The majority of Arabs travel with their entire families. Individual tourists and business travellers are still in the minority, although this is slowly changing. Only male travellers will travel alone. Arab travellers are normally well-to-do. They are used to being looked after and often buy themselves certain freedoms using their substantial economic means. Despite their buying power, however, prices are no longer simply paid; comparisons are made, especially when it comes to hotel accommodation. To do this they are using the internet more and more. The main reasons for travel are business trips, visits to conferences and exhibitions and medical visits. Medical trips are most often undertaken by guests from the UAE as their medical schemes pay for hospital stays, drinks (non-alcoholic) and laundry. Medical checks are often combined with family holidays. Provided as part of the benefits of membership of Cape Town Tourism. For more information visit, call +27 (0)21 487 6800 or email

Another reason for travel is to escape the summer heat and for the sake of children, who are highly regarded, with many trips being undertaken purely for their sake and to visit theme parks and shop for toys. 3. Travel Structure and Duration The main travel season is between June and September. Family groups can number up to 60 people during this time. Depending on the rank of the Arab, nannies, secretaries and drivers are often part of the entourage, which makes it difficult to establish an average group size. Ten people per family are an approximate starting point. The duration of trips varies from case to case, but is generally several weeks. 4. Holiday Mentality It is not the norm in Arab states to have to ask for service, nor to thank for services received. Excellent service is expected and a given. Most Arab guests are highly educated and well travelled. They are therefore often seen as demanding. Flexibility and tolerance of their special requests is therefore a must. For example,...
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