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Insights: Why is Asia a prominent continent for inbound travel to ME?

The Middle East is particularly appealing to Chinese and Asians in general and they will be arriving in droves over the coming years, according to a new report by Expedia Group.

Asian Inbound traffic

According to the latest Q1 data, based on hotel demand for Q1 2018 compared with the same period in 2017, compiled by Expedia Group, the number of travelers visiting the Middle East from China has significantly increased and industry leaders are suggesting it will only continue to rise.

At least 2.5 million Chinese travelers are expected to visit the GCC each year by 2021, said the research body.

Travelers from China ranked in the top 3 Asian regions traveling to the Middle East, followed by India ranked 1st from Aia and 4th ranked globally and South Korea and Japan ranked 2nd and 4th among Asian regions respectively.

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Mobile travel Demand

The number of smartphone users globally is forecast to grow to around 2.5 billion in 2019, according to Expedia.

Asian travelers once again topped the list of mobile travel demand into the region with travelers from South Korea and Japan showing a year on year increase of around 70% and 60% respectively, according to Expedia.

Other markets that showed a healthy growth in mobile demand to the Middle East were Germany (+85%), Denmark (+60%), France (+60%) and the UK (+60%).

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UAE’s Share of Asian travelers

Demand for travel into the UAE, including non-mobile, has shown a healthy year-on-year increase in demand of over 25% for both Dubai and Abu Dhabi,Expedia reported in Q4 2017.

Room night demand into the UAE saw growth from travellers globally, and travellers from Asia surged, notably from South Korea (up almost 35% year on year).

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Reasons for such arrivals

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), while most of the countries are gearing up to attract and retain the Asian traveler (i.e. Indians and Chinese), destinations within the Middle East (particularly Dubai) have already put the wheels in motion by undertaking the following steps:

1-Introducing direct flights from India and China to the Middle East

2-Easing the visa procedures

3-Focusing on the introduction of a variety of activities especially in the family and cultural realms (e.g. theme parks, museums, etc.)

4-Providing a world-class retail offering

5-Offering hotels across all categories

6-Encouraging hotels to gain a Chinese-friendly certification

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Two (2) more reasons were added by Paula De Keijzer, Senior Director Market Management Middle East, Indian Ocean, Africa, Greece & Turkey, Expedia Group, who said, “It is suggested that this (Chinese) growth could be driven by local travel incentives introduced into the region, which include visa on arrival for Chinese visitors and acceptance of Chinese credit cards.”

“The global economic power has shifted from advanced to emerging economies – such as Asia, Africa and Latin America – which are now accounting for more than half of the global GDP. This shift has placed the Middle East at the center of many fast growing markets,” said PWC.

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Global tourist arrivals

According to the World Tourism Organization UNWTO, it is estimated that international tourist arrivals worldwide increased 7% in 2017.

It said Asia and the Pacific recorded 6% growth, and the Middle East 5%.

The current strong momentum is expected to continue in 2018, the body said.

UNWTO projects international tourist arrivals worldwide to grow at a rate of 4%-5% in 2018, where Asia and the Pacific are expected to grow by 5%-6%, Africa by 5%-7% and the Middle East by 4%-6%.

2017 Asia and Middle East results by UNWTO region

Asia and the Pacific (+6%) recorded 324 million international tourist arrivals in 2017. Arrivals in South Asia grew 10%, in South-East Asia 8% and in Oceania 7%. Arrivals to North-East Asia increased by 3%.

The Middle East (+5%) received 58 million international tourist arrivals in 2017 with sustained growth in some destinations and a strong recovery in others.