WTM predicts Middle East takeover

Some of the United Kingdom’s most high-profile travel and tourism brands could be purchased by wealthy Middle Eastern businessman, predicts the WTM Global Trends Report.

The report, in association with Euromonitor International, predicts Middle Eastern businesses are among the frontrunners for some of the UK industry’s most well known brands, including the Savoy, Claridge’s, the Berkeley and the Connaught.

Many leading brands are already believed to be on the market, according to WTM.

The UK economy was among the hardest hit following the global recession due to its reliance on the financial markets, this, alongside sterling’s depreciation against the US dollar, makes the UK attractive for Middle East investors, finds the report.

The 2009 finance act provides Middle Eastern organisations relief from stamp duty and capital gains tax and has led to an increase in investment in the UK from the Middle East, most famously the Qatari Royal Family’s purchase of Harrods.

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This influence will spread to the travel industry with tourists from the Middle East representing a significant opportunity for the UK because they have proved to be more resilient in recession.

Euromonitor international head of global travel and tourism research, Caroline Bremner, said: “The UK is ripe for investment from the Middle East with attractive property prices and the value of the pound.

“We anticipate visitors from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to the UK to increase significantly in the next four years.”

Last year Middle East visitors spent £810 million in the UK according to tax-free shopping services specialist Global Blue and the company anticipates a significant increase this year.

The UK Border Agency is expanding its Visa Application Centres in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Riyadh and Jeddah to cope with increased demand from the luxury segment.

World Travel Market Chairman Fiona Jeffery said: “Some of the UK’s most iconic travel and tourism brands, particularly the top end hotels, could soon be owned by Middle Eastern companies.”

“This investment and the increase in tourism from the region will undoubtedly fuel a much needed boost for the UK travel and tourism industry as it looks to recover from the recent global financial problems.”