Middle East tourism to the UK is outpacing that of the rest of the world with regional visitors spending more per person than tourists from other areas, according to VisitBritain, the country’s national tourism authority.
“Visitors to the UK from the Middle East contributed an average spend of £1700 per capita per visit in 2004,” said Carol Maddison, Marketing Manager for VisitBritain’s UAE representative office. “That was three times the average for visitors from the rest of the world and with this level of spend, the Middle East is one of the most important regions generating inbound tourism to the UK.”
Now VisitBritain is planning to up the stakes even further with a series of tailor-made Arabic initiatives aimed at luring more Middle Easterners to its shores and plans to launch them at this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM), the region’s premier event for the travel and tourism industry.
“ATM is an integral part of our marketing operations here in the Middle East and the market is of such importance to UK tourism that we have a number of initiatives we plan to launch at ATM designed to attract even more Middle East visitors to Britain,” said Maddison.
VisitBritain now plans to upgrade its operations from its UAE representative office in the British Council, Dubai.
“In March, we plan to open a Contact Centre in conjunction with the British Council to service enquiries from the UAE,” said Maddison. “Later in 2005, we plan to extend the Contact Centre’s range to include the entire GCC and in addition to these services, we will enhance VisitBritain’s Internet services to cater to the Arab market.
“The first stage will be virtual offices throughout the Middle East allowing online bookings and this will be followed with the launch of our new Arabic website.
“Increasing numbers of visitors from this region mean we have to communicate effectively with Middle East audiences and the Arabic language website will be an integral part of our ongoing regional marketing and communication plans.”
Maddison added that the upsurge of interest in spa retreats and healthy lifestyles will also be reflected on the UK’s national pavilion at ATM.
“Our research is showing an increase in spend and enquires related to health resorts and spas and we will be using ATM to launch our UK Health and Lifestyle programme,” she said.
“As part of the launch, visitors to the UK national pavilion will be able to enter a competition to win spa prizes from local and UK resorts.”
The VisitBritain hosted national pavilion at ATM 2004, featured over 30 UK tourism service providers and according to Maddison, all reported excellent numbers of stand visitors generating healthy enquiries and subsequent sales.
“The VisitBritain stand brings some of the UK’s leading niche tourism service providers and regional tourist offices to an audience of the Middle East’s leading travel agents, operators, corporate travel buyers and airlines,” said Maddison.
“Visits to the UK from the Middle East increased from 250,000 in 2003 to 280,000 last year and we anticipate this increasing by a further three to four percent in 2005.
“ATM is invaluable in bringing together tourism service providers from the UK with major players from the Middle East travel industry.”
The VisitBritain stand is one of 43 national or regional tourism bodies so far confirming participation for ATM 2005, which will be held at the Dubai World Trade Centre from May 3-6. ÊFor the first time the show includes representation from Finland and the Russian Federation state of Krasnodar Krai while Brazil returns to ATM after a three-year break.
Organisers Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE), says the increased geographic spread of participants is one of the driving forces behind floor space growth at the show, currently running at over 20%.
“The widening geographic spread is also an indication that the global reputation of the show is expanding,” said Chris Chackal, Group Exhibitions Director - Overseas Events, RTE.
Ê“Continuing reports of the high spend of Middle Eastern tourists and their large propensity for travel, particularly from the Gulf region, is encouraging new outbound destinations to enter the market.”
Currently, exhibitors from 50 countries have confirmed their participation for ATM 2005 which will take up seven halls at the Dubai World Trade Centre.
This year RTE says it will donate entry fees from the ATM’s two public sessions to the ‘Just A Drop’ charity to provide fresh water to communities ravaged by the December tsunami in Asia.
Arabian Travel Market 2005 is held under the patronage of His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defence Minister and under the auspices of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Government of Dubai.