As one of the largest outbound markets within the global travel industry, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) saw travelers spend over US$69bn worldwide in 2018, an increase of 4.5% from 2017. The area is developing to become a powerful source market for any destination as outbound GCC travelers are seeking more engagement in a wider array of tourism experiences, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
GlobalData’s latest report, ‘Tourism Source Market Insight: Gulf Corporation Council, explores how changing generational trends such as experiential travel, the search for authenticity and freedom of movement are influencing GCC tourists to venture to a wider range of locations than ever before.
While visiting friends and relatives (VFR) and religious pilgrimages still heavily influence both domestic and intra-regional travel decisions in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with 52% and 20% of respective outbound consumers traveling for these reasons in 2018, vacation types such as cruises (36%), city breaks (33%), adventure/sport holidays (30%) and culinary holidays (30%) are spurring outbound travel, according to GlobalData’s Q4 2018 consumer survey.
Johanna Bonhill-Smith, Travel and Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, commented: “In 2018, families dominated the outbound GCC traveler market, accounting for an average of 60% of total trips from both Saudi Arabia and the UAE. However, this is expected to decrease over the next five years, as the majority of the GCC population is made up of millennials and those in the Generation Z age range, which are heavily influenced by the image of a destination – whether for gastronomy, adventure or culture. This helps explain the increasing interest for more niche tourism experiences.”
Iconic city destinations and cultural experiences spur inbound travel into Europe from the GCC. Italy, France and the UK are major holiday destinations for these travelers, attracting markets due to providing ample opportunity for memorable experiences through entertainment, attractions, sightseeing and shopping.
Bonhill-Smith adds: “However, Islamophobia, referring to prejudices in a destination against the Muslim community, acts as a barrier for GCC travelers. For example, the recent burqa ban in the Netherlands will affect travelers’ ability to freely express their faith and religion, which may deter GCC travelers.”
Germany is a developing destination for the GCC due to the country’s improved connectivity, enhanced promotion, adopted airline routes and strong cultural reputation making it stand out among other European markets. GlobalData’s Q4 2018 consumer survey found that tailored experiences are important to GCC travelers, with 84% stating they are ‘always’, ‘often’ or ‘somewhat’ influenced by a personal experience. Developments within the retail and luxury sector across Germany have been a key influencing factor for inbound flows to the destination.
Bonhill-Smith concludes: “Businesses seeking to tap into the GCC outbound travel market should aim to impress this market segment by respecting Arabian cultural needs, aspiring to exceed expectations through providing high quality and upmarket services whilst targeting evolving market opportunities such as the ‘coming of age traveler’ seeking cultural adventures.”
Information based on GlobalData’s report: ‘Tourism Source Market Insight: Gulf Corporation Council’