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According to data released by Arabian Travel Market research, Kuwait has around 7,256 hotel rooms with a further 1,958 units and up to

seven contracted hotels and resorts in the pipeline.

In light of this, Schuler commented, “The hospitality industry in Kuwait is no doubt growing and we experienced the opening of several five-star hotels, including our hotel, and are expecting to see some more international chains entering the market in the next three to five years.

This expansion is a clear indication that investors are seeing opportunities and is probably a thorough insight of what the future is bringing.”

However, several challenges remain and as Mazen Al-Mhanna, director of sales and marketing, Sheraton Kuwait, a Luxury Collection Hotel, disclosed, the main one is the insufficient leisure tourism segment.

As a country famous for its hospitality, Kuwait should be able to attract more visitors, he continued.

With Saudi Arabia and the other GCC states proving invaluable feeder markets to the sector, Hassan Hassanein, general manager, Mövenpick Hotel Kuwait, added that there has been a slight increase in leisure guest volumes mainly from Qatar and Bahrain.

“Kuwait’s tourism sector is dominated by the corporate and government segments, especially due to the country’s natural resources and high spending power. Yet, the country is also a haven for visitors from neighbouring countries, who visit mostly during the weekends and holidays,” Hassanein explained.

Petek corroborated that with Kuwait being a family-oriented destination, family tourism is a big source of attraction for visitors from the GCC, especially from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE.

He further elaborated on the nation’s comparative advantages.

“Family ties continue to be a strong point, in addition to other aspects such as shopping and the availability of international brands.

Moreover, Kuwait has the appeal of possessing an authentic cultural experience. It may be a lesser known attraction to international visitors but that itself can have an exotic appeal that can boost tourism,” added Petek.

George Aoun, cluster general manager, JW Marriott Hotel Kuwait City, Courtyard by Marriott Hotel Kuwait City and Residence Inn by Marriott Kuwait City, explained why the country is an ideal leisure destination, saying, “Kuwait is a rich source of cultural assets that range from modern museums filled with historical arts and artifacts to ancient archaeological sites.

The country is also known for its splendid shopping [opportunities]. Therefore, travellers will find plenty of things to do and see in the country.”

Hassanein deemed that Kuwait needs to look to many channels that attract international markets and focus its attention on positioning itself as a global player.

As he said, the implementation and ongoing improvements of the new visa scheme is certainly a major step in the right direction towards opening up the country to overseas visitors.

Schuler concluded, “[Kuwait] has so many hidden treasures to offer. There are impressive museums, islands and sightseeing which no doubt will help attract international visitors.”