Around nine million Indians are expected to travel to the GCC by 2021, according to the latest figures from Colliers International, as destinations throughout the Middle East prepare to showcase their latest offering at Arabian Travel Market (ATM Dubai), which is being held at Dubai World Trade Centre from April 22-25 2018.
Now in its 25th year, the 2018 edition of ATM will welcome over 2,500 exhibiting companies and an expected 40,000 visitors, with over 150 countries represented, 65 national pavilions, and more than 100 new exhibitors set to make their ATM debut. Many Indian participants are participating in the show this year as well. There was a 45 pc increase in sharers at the India stand at ATM 2017, 25 Indian participants in total including two regional boards and another strong contingent are expected at ATM 2018. Not only are the two regional boards returning to the show, there are other regional boards from the India who have shown interest in exhibiting at the next edition of the ATM.
Summing up this year’s show, Simon Press said, “Arabian Travel Market continues to be the preferred route to market for many international and regional hospitality brands and the increase in hotel exhibition space in 2018 reflects the hundreds of new property and brand launches we have seen during the last 12 months. The tourism industry in the GCC has grown ten-fold and more since we first opened our show doors 25 years ago. With a host of top speakers lined up and panel sessions for ATM 2018, we will be looking back on the tourism revolution in the Middle East over the last quarter of a century and also forecasting what lies ahead for the industry, with continuing geopolitical tensions across the globe, economic uncertainties, huge technological advances and, of course, the increasing trend of responsible tourism.”
Booming India Outbound to GCC
Reports from the UNWTO suggest the outbound Indian travel market will grow to 50 million by 2021, with the average spend per trip by Indian travellers also increasing – UNWTO statistics reveal India is among the top 12 source markets globally that showed double-digit growth in expenditure in 2016 – visitor spending reached a total of US$23.1 billion in 2016, up 15.1 per cent year-on-year.
Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director, ATM, said: “Surprisingly, there are just over 65 million passport holders in India out of a population of around 1.3 billion. Still, it is no surprise that the growth of the global travel industry is being led by Asian travellers and the Middle East region can expect to benefit, with Indian tourist arrivals expected to grow by CAGR of 7-8 pc.
“We have witnessed this growth first hand with ATM 2017 welcoming 54 pc more visitors from India compared to 2014.”
Over the five-year period from 2012 to 2016, the average percentage of Indian arrivals out of total arrivals in Kuwait was 15.4 pc; KSA, 10.6 pc; Bahrain, 17.6 pc; Oman, 11.2 pc; and UAE 9.8 pc.
India retained top spot on Dubai’s list of source markets for inbound tourism, with 1,478,000 Indian tourists arriving in the city between January and September, registering a significant 20 pc rise over the same period in 2016. The increase can also be attributed to relaxed visa restrictions for Indian passport holders, which is currently under further consideration, including the possibility of extending on-arrival visas to Indians.
In terms of Bahrain, Indians are eligible for Visit-e-Visa, which means there is no need to have a physical visa stamped in their passports prior to arrival in the country.
Press said: “The influx of Indian visitors to the GCC shows no sign of abating and is expected to continue rising, with the added benefit of an increase in the average spent by Indians on outbound travel. This is supported by India’s steady GDP growth, which stood at 7.1 pc in 2016 and, although this is forecast to drop to 5.7 pc this year due to the introduction of a general sales tax, it is expected to recover and steady at 8 pc over the next few years.”
The Colliers research reveals Indian outbound travel growth is to be driven by the middle-income households rather than the higher-income as the former is expected to grow to nearly 20 pc (58 million) of the total Indian households by 2021, while the latter will represent less than 3 pc (6.5 million).
“At 61 pc, India’s youth population is exceptional, providing a great opportunity to develop lifestyle and budget brands that offer differentiated products and experiences,” Press commented.
India is also attracting visitors from the GCC, which is a top source market for medical tourism and is expected to grow, as an entire industry, to $8 billion by 2020 from the $3.9 billion of 2016. While the west coast resorts, such as Goa, remain popular with Middle East travellers, given its close proximity to the region.