Arrivals from Europe to the GCC will increase 29% over the period 2018 to 2023, driven by new and direct flight routes, a growing number of millennial and middle-class travellers and competitive airfares, according to the latest data released ahead of Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2019, which takes place at Dubai World Trade Centre from 28 April – 1 May 2019.
According to ATM’s research partner, Colliers International, as many as 8.3 million EU residents will travel to the GCC in 2023, an additional 1.9 million travellers when compared to 2018 arrival figures.
Adding to this, figures from ATM 2018 show the number of delegates arriving from Europe increased 5% between 2017 and 2018, while the number of delegates, exhibitors and attendees interested in doing business with Europe increased by 24%.
Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market, said: “Historically, Europe and the GCC have enjoyed excellent travel and tourism links and this trend is set to continue over the next four years.
“The UAE and Saudi Arabia are expected to continue to be the preferred GCC destinations for European tourists, welcoming a projected 6.15 million and 1.11 million visitors respectively by 2023. Oman will follow with 720,000 visitors, while Bahrain will welcome 310,000 and Kuwait 140,000.”
Driving this demand in the UAE throughout 2018, Emirates introduced new flights to London Stansted, Edinburgh, Lyon and Paris; Etihad to Barcelona; flydubai to Catania, Thessaloniki, Krakow, Dubrovnik, Zagreb and Helsinki; and Air Arabia to Prague. While in Saudi Arabia, new routes to destinations including Vienna and Malaga were added during the same period.
Looking at the outbound market potential, GCC travel to EU countries is expected to grow by 50%, with 6 million GCC residents projected to visit Europe by 2023. The Colliers data indicates that Saudi Arabia will lead this growth with 2.98 million KSA residents travelling to Europe in 2023, followed by 1.73 million UAE residents, 600,000 Kuwaitis, 340,000 Bahrainis and 210,000 Omanis.
While part of this growth can be attributed to the UAE and Saudi Arabia’s large expatriate populations, GCC nationals are no strangers to European destinations, its culture and history – as well as its retail and luxury hospitality offerings.
Curtis said: “Saudi Arabia is predicted to retain its position as the largest outbound travel market destination in the GCC, with an additional 1.2 million trips forecasted per year by 2023 – a 70% growth on 2018 trips. Driving this growth will be the rising spending power of both millennials and females in the Kingdom.”
According to the Colliers research, the UK, France, Switzerland and Sweden will be the top European destinations for GCC nationals to visit, with the UK expected to account for 890,000 trips by 2023.
“In the UK, Brexit has weakened the British Pound providing an additional incentive for Gulf tourists, while the relaxation of tourist visa requirements and GCC residents’ growing interest in medical tourism is encouraging travel to countries such as Switzerland and Sweden,” Curtis added.