Tourism in the Middle East is mining a rich vein of success thanks to an influx of Indian tourists buying gold, according to the new WTM Global Trends Report 2012.
A recent surge of low-cost flights has opened up new travel opportunities for Indian tourists, many of whom head for gold souks across the Gulf, especially Dubai.
The WTM Global Trends Report 2012 – in association with Euromonitor International – said India’s tourism is growing thanks to the country’s economic strength, and aviation is expanding as low-cost airlines such as IndiGo and SpiceJet shake up the market.
Trips from India to Gulf countries are forecast to post a compound annual growth rate of almost 7% over 2012-2016, fuelled by growing disposable incomes and affluence, said the report.
And the lure of gold is a major attraction because Gulf countries offer better quality gold with intricate designs that are more appealing to Indian consumers.
Indians buy gold for wedding gifts and during traditional festivals such as Akshaya Tritiya and Dhanteras, but also as an investment.
The report said that the first quarter of 2012 saw gold worth US$5 billion exported from Dubai to India.
Abdul Salam, Executive Director of Dubai gold retailer Malabar Gold, Dubai, said: “Many Indian tourists visit the UAE to buy gold during the shopping festivals… because gold here is pure and they save some money too.”
Reed Travel Exhibitions Chairman World Travel Market, Fiona Jeffery, said: “As well as being a boost for India’s aviation industry, the popularity of Gulf gold is of benefit for hotels, car hire firms and tourist attractions in the Middle East.”
Caroline Bremner, Euromonitor International Head of Travel and Tourism Research, added: “This ‘gold rush’ is part of a wider trend for Middle East travel suppliers to take advantage of the desire for consumers to shop in destinations such as Dubai.
“We’re seeing more personalised shopping concierge services being developed, and to cater for Indians seeking gold, there are tailored services for them too.”
India is also set to take centre stage on 12 December 2012 when it will play host to the Grand Final Ceremony of World Travel Awards, the “Oscars of the travel industry”.
The glittering ceremony will take place at The Oberoi, Gurgaon, New Delhi Capital Region and will mark the first time that WTA’s Grand Final will be hosted in Asia. The WTA organisers chose Delhi as host due to the Indian capital’s continuing evolution as a world-class business and leisure destination. In particular, Delhi’s luxury hospitality sector is enjoying a golden age, spearheaded by the likes of The Oberoi, Gurgaon.
This was reflected at WTA’s Asia, Australasia & Indian Ocean 2012 in Singapore, when it fended off stiff competition from the likes of Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bali, Malaysia and Shanghai to win the coveted title of “Asia’s Leading Destination”. Meanwhile Incredible India was voted “Asia’s Leading Tourist Board”.
The emerging economic superpower also enjoyed a series of individual categories. Trident Gurgaon nudged ahead of Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, JW Marriott Phuket (Thailand), The Peninsula Tokyo (Japan) and The St. Regis Singapore to claim the title of “Asia’s Leading Hotel”.