Arabian Travel Market 2017: GCC eyes major emerging markets for tourism expansion

Arabian Travel Market 2017: GCC eyes major emerging markets for tourism expansion

Major tourism destinations in the GCC will increase efforts to target Indian and Chinese inbound tourists, as regional and international guests from Europe continue to feel the acute financial pressures of the challenging global economy.

The findings were published by Colliers International at Arabian Travel Market, at Dubai World Trade Centre, during a seminar session entitled: Capitalising on Experiential Travel: China & India Mega Source Markets.

Already key markets for the region, China counts an average of 122 million outbound tourists annually and India contributes 22 million, with overseas spending calculated to be $252 billion and $15.4 billion respectively in 2015.

China’s outbound tourism market is currently growing, on average, 6.7 per cent year-on-year, while India’s market posts average annual growth of seven per cent.

Debrah Dhugga, managing director, Dukes Collection, said: “The GCC is home to a number of globally-recognised tourist attractions and continues to draw visitors from all over the world as a result.

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“As markets in Europe and other GCC countries continue to feel the pressure of low oil prices and depreciated currency rates, it is key that tourism bodies and private sector hospitality, travel and tourism brands continue to explore new markets.

“The growth seen from China and India has driven tourist arrivals across the region over the near past and we have seen this reflected in our recent guest profiles.”

The trend is largely proliferated by increasing levels of personal wealth and a demand for experiential travel.

China is home to 1.4 million high net worth individuals, with 146 million working class nationals, representing 19 per cent of the working population, and 90 million urban blue collar workers.

Counted together, they represent almost 29 per cent of the population and are the most likely to travel.
India, meanwhile, is home to 433,000 HNWI, with 59 million considered urban middle and educated urban and 97 million counted as urban blue collar workers.

Together, they represent almost 31 per cent of the population that is eligible and likely to travel.

Filippo Sona, director, head of hotels MENA region, Colliers International, said: “The growing middle class and cheaper flight options are transforming the outbound travel landscape for these two countries, with a combined 146 million passport holders.

“On the one hand, GCC cities are becoming increasingly interested in forging long-lasting relationships with Chinese companies, particularly in the fields of construction, infrastructure planning, oil, and manufacturing.

“On the other hand, countries such as the UAE and Oman are increasing their efforts to attract Indian leisure tourists, through targeted entertainment offerings and promotional activities, while Saudi Arabia is expected to ramp up the visa quotas for the large Muslim Indian population to visit the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.”

Making a total of 12 recommendations concerning visas, accommodation, cultural sensitivities and marketing, the report advises GCC-wide multi-entry visas with similar principles to the Schengen Area; hotel welcome kits and signage in guests’ native languages; promotion of cultural celebrations and festivals from each country; and targeted loyalty programmes.

According to the report, hotels should aim for a volume-driven strategy when tapping the combined Indian and Chinese market, creating culturally tailored experiences in order to boost their reputation in the guest’s home market.

For example, an understanding of Chinese social media is critical, as native sites such as Baidu and Weibo are favoured over TripAdvisor and Booking.com.