The GCC is home to a vast number of nationalities and hence their preferences, tastes, the idea of an experience and values are so diverse. However, when it comes to outbound travel from the region, there appears to be focus on luxury travel with unique holidays and individual experiences becoming increasingly popular. Exploring the tremendous potential of the luxury travel segment from the Gulf Countries, the special 6th edition of the MICE Arabia and Luxury Travel (MALT) Congress organized by Dubai-based QnA International will bring together the movers and shakers of the luxury travel world.
Whether it is in the form of flying business, or first class, Gulf Countries outbound travellers are thought of as big spenders. So much so, that GCC outbound travellers are forecasted to spend a mammoth USD 94 billion by 2020, up from the USD 64 billion spent in 2015 according to Statista. Further, this figure is expected to reach USD 140 billion and USD 216 billion by 2025 and 2030 respectively according to same sources.
What could be driving the demand for luxury tourism? Predictive answers point to high net worth individuals (HNWI’s), strong currency and high spending power. But the travel and hospitality industry too provides another answer, and this is the development of different forms of luxury.
According to Gioia Valli, Head of MICE GCC, Switzerland Tourism,“The trend is to be more exciting, more adventurous, specifically for MICE & luxury traveller as they are looking for something new, something that is unique”
The luxury tourism sector will “Observe a further distinction between ultra-luxury and affordable luxury,” noted Marek Bukala, Director, ZanziResort, a sponsor of the 6th MALT Congress. However, there will also be a “Less ostentatious approach to guests within the luxury sectorand halal tourism along with a personalized experience are necessary for catering to tourists from the GCC,” said Bukala.
To attract outbound tourism from the GCC, various sponsors of the MALT Congress agreed that certain service offerings need to be first established. For instance, Dag Kastensson, CEO, SNE Northern Europe reiterated that “Offering halal cuisine and space for religious practices,” is an important foundation on which to build services to attract guests from the GCC. Kastensson also added that the addition of “Time-efficient and daily non-stop flights to all Scandinavian capitals,” have dramatically increased accessibility for guests from the GCC.
Direct flights to most destinations are available from different GCC countries, and at the 5th MALT Congress it was revealed that, according to a Credit Suisse report, GCC nationals spend 260% more on airfare with up to 60% purchasing business tickets.
Boris Jablan, Owner and Executive Director, 3e Travel, DMC, Montenegro, also indicated that direct flights have increased the attractiveness of the Montenegro market to tourists as well as investors from the GCC, “The fact that Montenegro is a Mediterranean destination presents a huge marketing advantage, and the hospitality industry has improved to the high-quality standards of service necessary for luxury tourism,” Jablan explained.
The GCC outbound traveler does have a soft-spot for familiarities other than halal cuisine, and security. This is cultural resonance, and naturistic landscapes. As such, destinations located around the Mediterranean, and not too far away from the region, such as Turkey, tend to be hot options for travel. “Turkey, with its nature, deep history, cultural familiarity, and fusion of east and west, is a good destination for GCC travelers. We believe these are the qualities that the GCC traveler is looking for,” commented LaleEranil, Director, CORMEP.
However, highlighting the intricacies of changing tastes and currents within the GCC outbound market, Pushpa Rao, Managing Director, Over the Horizon, Mauritius, stated that outbound travel from the GCC has changed over the years with guests “Increasing their minimum stays from 6 to 10 nights and expecting more activities while travelling between resorts.”
“It is insights like these that the 6th annual MALT Congress will share with delegates, helping them to plan efficiently and effectively for the near future. And this year, we will exclusively focus on experiential travellers from the GCC, while offering more opportunities for networking and closing of business deals through our carefully curated and selected business representatives in the ME,” commented SidhN.C, Director, QnA International.
Jablan pointed out the advantage of the Congress for the GCC tourism sector, stating that “Platforms such as the MALT Congress increase networking opportunities in the GCC travel market,and concrete business deals through pre-scheduled meetings with direct buyers. It also is a great enabler in transferring knowledge of the needs and expectations of the GCC luxury and MICE markets.”