Tourists from Gulf countries are noted for their willingness to spend significantly while overseas. Against this backdrop, it is no wonder that tourism authorities in many countries are extending efforts to entice Gulf visitors by offering all sorts of incentives, including dropping the requirement for them to have pre-arranged their visas.
Holders of UAE passports enjoy exceptional advantages as some 167 countries do not require Emiratis to have prearranged visas. Accordingly, the UAE topped the Passport Index 2018 ahead of Germany and Singapore.
By one account, GCC nationals spend 6.5 times higher than the global average for travellers — quite extraordinary by any account. It is based on this sort of data that countries seek to attract Gulf visitors via visa wavers, the easy availability of halal food, and dedicated places for prayers.
According to a report issued by World Tourism Organisation (WTO) and the European Travel Commission, tourism expenditures from the six-nation Gulf bloc surpassed $69 billion (Dh253.43 billion) in 2017. In comparison, spending stood at $40 billion in 2010.
The two entities are projecting higher spending on the part of Gulf tourists in the coming years, with two categories expected to make the highest contributions — families and youths.
It is common that GCC tourists will include a large proportion of the young and family units. It is therefore not surprising then that these two groups are targeted by tour agencies because they tend to spend amply on shopping and entertainment.
There is also perception among many European tourism authorities that the continent has the qualities to keep attracting more visitors from the Gulf. Prime reasons include its highly developed infrastructure, diverse shopping opportunities and no dearth of scenic places. Additional benefits entail a common currency — the euro — the ability to travel between states using a common visa.
Much to their credit, carriers from the Gulf have the necessary capacity to create the travel opportunities. Aviation is a source of strength for GCC economies.
Of course, tourists from the GCC are entitled to demand benefits commensurate with their spending power and relative importance. Thailand can be considered an example in this regard, as it has provided places of prayers at airports and shopping complexes.
Arguably, tourism advantages are not exclusive to a particular region. As such, there is every need to generate maximum benefits from inward travel to the GCC. More than 50 million people visit the Gulf annually, including those on pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.
There is growing appreciation for the tourism sector as a source of economic growth and job creation for locals. What matters is translating tourism capabilities into concrete results.