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Consistency in differentiation: how GCC is building the future of their travel destinations

After a remarkable development in travel & tourism, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are committed to build consistency across the region while remaining unique and authentic, as shown by Connecting Travel Insight Report 2024, powered by our travel intelligence.

Aligning promotion, quality, and experience, extending stays, and embracing collaboration are some of the strategies outlined for Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries in Connecting Travel Insight Report 2024, a compelling study powered by Mabrian travel intelligence, launched in Dubai during Arabian Travel Market 2024.

Developed by our team, in collaboration with Connecting Travel and Jacobs Media, the report explores GCC tourism & travel from a destinations’ perspective and as source markets, comparing the overall performance of the two first semesters of 2023 and 2024.

Focusing on international travel to GCC countries (United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrein, Kuwait), the study indicates that air connectivity for increased 11% year over year, meaning an extra 8.5 million seats than the same period in 2023, contributing to increasing potential demand.

Leveraging world-class tourism infrastructure to excel

According to our analysis, huge potential lies in extending the length of stay in the six GCC counties (3,46 days on average), by extensively promoting the variety of tourism experiences, encouraging meaningful and authentic connections and multi-destination trips. This strategy will have a positive impact in the region’s Satisfaction Index of Tourism Products and Services, now reaching an average of 68 points out of 100; as the local experience will better resonate with the key drivers for foreign visitation, namely culture and arts (27%), gastronomy (13%), and active well-being (the combination of outdoors, wellness, and active lifestyle, equivalent to 30% of the total share).

There is also an opportunity in levelling hospitality standards to build a more homogeneous perception of the accommodation experience across the region. As data indicates, the Hotel Satisfaction Index reaches 67 out of 100 points on average, fluctuating over 25 points from the highest to the lowest punctuations. This index can attain regional stability and consistency by harnessing the competitive ADRs with the value proposition of mid-range accommodations as well as the outstanding 5-stars hotels.

As our data indicates, safety and climate are great advantages from GCC destinations to attract international travellers, reflected in a 94-points Perception of Security Index, as well as the 90-points Climate Perception Index (of 100 points possible), a positive asset built around efficient expectations’ management and non-seasonal travel from key inbound markets.

The extensive tourism infrastructure development also gives opportunities to diversify in segments, enhancing MICE, business, and bleisure travel, and to appeal to other profitable demographics groups, including younger generations, as well as GenX (+45 years-old) or silver travellers.

Culture and active well-being, strong drivers for GCC travellers

GCC travellers show a strong preference for renowned bucket-list destinations (as France, United Kingdom, or Italy), culturally familiar destinations (Turkey or Egypt), as well as places with breath-taking outdoors and landscapes, including paradise-like beaches (Thailand or Maldives), or spectacular forests and mountains (such as Georgia, Switzerland or Azerbaijan). The drivers that influence them the most when choosing a destination are active well-being (the combination of nature, wellness, sports, and active lifestyle), equivalent to 36% of the total share, while arts & culture and gastronomy represent 25% and 12%, respectively.

Understanding GCC market preferences and travel motivations is key to increase average stay (4.2 days), offering them more opportunities to enjoy meaningful and authentic experiences in their chosen destinations.

Moreover, direct connectivity and safety are relevant drivers for GCC travelling abroad. In fact, air capacity from January to June 2024 grew 19% when compared to 2023, and in some markets, such as Azerbaijan, Thailand or Egypt increased even more, +38%, +33%, and +25% respectively. Mabrian’s Perception of Security Index (PSI) data indicates that this market highly regards safety, as the average PSI of their 10 most popular destinations is 87 points out of 100, and is even higher for Thailand (96), Georgia (95), France and Italy (93).

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