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“Festival Tourism” Grows as Travellers seek Authentic Experiences

The demand for ‘Festival Tourism’ has skyrocketed, especially among millennials who continue to thirst for unique and buzz-worthy experiences – according to Wego, the leading online travel marketplace in the Middle East and Africa.

“Today’s global travelers are willing to spend that extra penny to experience the magic of seasonal, music, cultural, and even shopping festivals,” said Mamoun Hmedan, Wego Managing Director for MENA and India.  “It’s the Gen-Y’s penchant for unique and authentic cultural encounters and human-interactions that drives their interest to attend festivals – halfway across the world.”

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Music Festivals Top the Charts

According to the Wego spokesperson, music festivals are one of the greatest travel motivators of the recent times. It is extravaganzas such as Tomorrowland in Belgium, Exit in Serbia, Mawazine in Morocco, Jerash in Jordan and Coachella in the United States that have popularized the idea of traveling for the sound of music.

In the last few years, a sharp increase in travel searches to the host nation has been seen in the months preceding major music festivals. For instance, England, which hosts the largest number of music festivals in the world, saw a 20% rise in music tourism in 2016 – according to research by UK Music.

“Music festivals are able to successfully attract a large number of tourists and even surpass some of the major sporting events in terms of attendance,” said Hmedan. “Since we live in an era of ‘if it’s not on social media, it didn’t happen’, the new-age traveler seeks to make memories at such musical events and share them online with friends.”

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The Middle Eastern Festive Pull

Speaking specifically of the Middle East, Hmedan mentioned that local festivals such as the Dubai Shopping Festival continue to attract tourists from across the globe.

During the Dubai Shopping Festival this year, Wego witnessed an increase in flight searches for Dubai of around 20 percent, as compared to the same period last year.

“Mega and Family festivals, such as Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS) and Abu Dhabi Summer Festival have done remarkably well in attracting travelers to the region,” he added. “Such events are a great way to boost the nation’s tourist appeal during off-peak seasons.”

Other GCC countries are also working towards increasing their allure, as destinations for festival tourism, both within the region as well as internationally. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for one, is keen on popularizing its own share of cultural festivals including cultural fests of Janadriyah and Souq Okaz and the Jeddah Summer Festival.

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The Lure of Off-Beat Festivals

To keep up with the trend, travel providers have already started to offer packages to off-beat destination festivals like the Sarawak Rainforest Music Festival in Borneo, Air Guitar World Championships in Finland and the Hornbill Festival, in the north-east of India.

Additionally, classic cars festivals and races (especially across the UK) are growing in popularity among the world’s auto aficionados and sports enthusiasts. Mounting interest in culinary tourism also contributes to more tourists planning their holidays around food festivals such as the Dubai Food Festival, UAE; Pizzafest in Naples, Italy; Maine Lobster Festival in Maine, USA and Thailand’s Vegetarian Festival.