Experts from Sojern, provider of a data-driven traveller marketing platform, say that the top three destination countries for outbound Middle Eastern travellers remain the same in the first quarter of 2016 as they were in the first quarter of 2015 – namely, Turkey, the US and Germany.
However, new countries are entering the overall top ten, such as Italy, replacing the Philippines, which ranked seventh last year and is in the ninth place this year, France at number eight (bumping Egypt off the top 10 list) and Netherlands, also bumping the UAE off from the top ten.
Outbound family travel remains on the rise, with Turkey and the UAE as top origin and destination countries for family travellers.
Saudi Arabia is seeing a 5 per cent increase in outbound family travel over the same quarter last year and the UAE a 2 per cent increase. Turkey is seeing a small 3 per cent dip in outbound family travel, but remains the undisputed number one – 41 per cent of total outbound travel from Turkey is by families.
Where are the families headed?
Increasingly to the UAE, which now accounts for 44 per cent of Mideast family travellers (compare with 32 per cent last year), Turkey, and in smaller degrees to Saudi Arabia.
Overall, the proportion of solo outbound travellers is slowly decreasing year-on-year, from 76 per cent to 72 per cent, in favour of more travel in groups of two – up four percentage points from 13 per cent last year.
Compared to last year, Spain replaces Switzerland as a top 10 origin country for travel to the Middle East region, and the UK moves to the top position. Russia moves up three places to position five and so does France, to position six.
The new ITB World Travel Trends Report 2015/2016 prepared by IPK International on behalf of ITB Berlin finds that the Middle East is the world’s fastest-growing outbound travel market, having witnessed a 9 per cent increase in outbound trips over the first eight months of 2015.
The report also finds that beside Saudi Arabia, the UAE is the most attractive outbound market in the region. Both markets are characterised by high spending per person per night (about $220) and long trips, starting from 14 nights (with 30 per cent lasting 16 nights or more).
Ramzi Maaytah, partner at IPK International, says, 'The most important outbound Arabian tourists travel trends for 2016 will be attractive cities and regions in Europe and the Far East that offer genuine entertainment, wellbeing and shopping experiences characterised by ease of travel access, visa issuance, nice cool summer weather and welcoming atmosphere to Arab tourists such as London, Barcelona, Genève, Munich and Bangkok.
'For the Arabian Gulf families seeking cultural experience and Islamic-compliant hospitality, tourists will increasingly go to the Far East destinations such as Malaysia, Indonesia, India and the Philippines.
'Regionally, alternative and safe touristic destinations such as Dubai, Oman, Turkey, and Morocco remain favourite destinations with Iran looming on the horizon as the next new unexplored destination,' he says.
Hemant Baheti, manager of Leisure Operations at Kanoo Holidays shares the word on the street: 'In terms of travelling for leisure, Switzerland, Malaysia, Thailand, Mauritius, Seychelles, South Africa, Indonesia, Brazil, Australia, Georgia, Italy, Turkey, Germany, Sri Lanka and Austria are most likely to be hot in 2016.'
In Baheti’s opinion, cruise business will surely continue to boom this year: 'From 2016 to 2017, 10 to 15 more new cruise ships are expected to come online, adding about 40,000 or 9 per cent to the existing worldwide passenger capacity. The ships from 2015 to 2016 alone will add $3.6 billion in annual revenue to the cruise industry.
'Dubai Tourism forecasts further growth for the sector and expects to welcome 450,000 cruise visitors by 2016. Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority is also preparing for a period of busy cruise activity during the 2015-16 season with as many as 37 calls, predominately from liners such as TUI Cruises, MSC Cruises, Costa Cruises and AIDA Cruises. These calls will bring an estimated 80,000 cruise passengers to the emirate, mostly from European countries such as Italy, Spain, France, Germany and the UK,' he says.
'Apart from leisure, cruise ships are emerging as the next meeting destinations. Holding meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions on cruise ships can be cost effective and an excellent option of having business mixed with some element of fun.'
Islam-compliant tourism is the fastest-growing sector of tourism in the world and countries are slowing beginning to tap into it. 'Halal tourism is expected to grow at a rate of 6 per cent per annum, which is much higher than the expected global tourism industry growth,' says Baheti.
'We are noticing a marked increase in countries and hotel chains announcing their plans to attract Muslim tourists. Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Lebanon are some of the popular destinations for Muslim travellers.
'Other countries like Japan have also identified the need to cater for Muslim tourists. In preparation for the 2020 Olympics, Japanese airports are adding prayer rooms as well as halal restaurants,' he concludes.
By Rashi Sen
Top trends in 2016
IF 2015 was any example of how the market is changing both technologically, operationally as well as philosophically, then 2016 should be an incredibly interesting year, says Greg Abbott, partner at US-based technology consultancy firm DataArt. He shares additional insight:
• Massive consolidation in the travel industry, which began in 2014, accelerated to a fevered pace in 2015. Sabre Hospitality acquired Trust International, TripAdvisor looked towards the tour space by acquiring Viator. Expedia acquired Orbitz and HomeAway. Marriott purchased Starwood and Accor announced the buyout of FRHI. All of this provides a glimpse into the crystal ball regarding what we should expect for 2016.
• In 2016, we will see online travel agencies (OTA’s) shift focus to alternative revenue sources from their old reliable revenue streams such as bookings and advertising: think table reservations, activities and vacation rentals. While some of these ancillary revenue opportunities already exist, we will see an intelligent, integrated offering to deliver a better consumer experience that ultimately drives more revenues. Travellers are not currently thinking about their dinner reservations while they are booking their hotel or airfare however in a holistic travel sales environment, we will see the convergence of all trip elements and the big players will own the customer through the entire trip process.
• Similarly, large hotel chains are looking for opportunities to get closer to their customers along the decision and booking path (remember, they get little to no details when a booking occurs at an OTA). Hotels continue to see a decline in direct bookings. Pressure from Airbnb, HomeAway and other sites are scaring the hotel industry and this growth of this new channel of inventory is expected to continue.
• Both supplier and agent are now squarely focused on the threat alternative lodging such as Airbnb poses. Airbnb sells more ‘nights’ than any of the global hotel chains. OTA’s have quickly moved into the vacation rental sector, with Expedia acquiring HomeAway.
• Personalisation will remain top of mind in 2016 and companies with the most data will have the best chance at delivering personalised service. However, companies that deliver these personalised solutions to the travel industry will have to tread carefully to ensure that they do not become too intrusive.
• The big players are all spending to gain market share in 2016. Google recently stepped into the hotel direct booking business. Some of the larger enterprise resource planning companies such as Oracle and SAP all have travel and hospitality divisions and they now have seen the light that there is real money to be made in this industry.
TTN is the most established trade publication in the Middle East distributed on a controlled circulation basis to members of the travel and tourism industry.
Published monthly by Al Hilal Publishing and Marketing Group, the region’s foremost trade publisher, TTN is aimed at professionals in the industry, from travel agents to airline and hotel personnel.
TTN provides in-depth and extensive coverage of relevant issues in the Middle East and North Africa as well as in other parts of the world. Travel related news, analysis, and new appointments together with information on up-coming exhibitions, marketing and promotional campaigns are presented in an innovative and striking colour tabloid.
Every issue also contains a collation of international and regional news and topical features of interest to readers.