Along with guest speakers such as UK Visas, Jazeera Airways and Bicester Village, VisitBritain presented to more than 100 travel consultants.
Sofia Santos, country manager, Middle East & Turkey at VisitBritain, tells TTN: “On the first day of the roadshow in Kuwait City, January 27, we got about 25 participants attending. Jazeera Airways and Bicester Village joined us as external speakers. Jazeera Airways now operates flights to London and Bicester Village was there to promote itself as much more just than a shopping experience. On February 3, in Dubai, we had visitors coming from Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah to attend the event. We had about 28 participants in all and in terms of external speakers, we also had Bicester Village and UK visas, so the travel trade had the opportunity to ask questions to UK visas in terms of how to get a visa to the UK, the different setups of visa that we currently offer. Tourism Ireland also joined in to reach out to the trade.”
In Riyadh on February 5, Bicester Village joined as one of the external speakers as well as UK Visas, through a dial-in connection, as Saudi Arabia is one GCC country that doesn't have electronic visa waiver for nationals. “The Saudi travel trade is very interested to know everything about Britain. They are usually very engaged with us.” About 38 participants were confirmed at the time of going to press.
VisitBritain is focused on inspiring visitors to explore more, travel further and stay longer when they visit Britain, driving growth beyond London and across more of the year.
Tricia Warwick, VisitBritain director, Asia Pacific, Middle East, Africa stated: “It is fantastic that the people are travelling to Britain from the GCC countries to enjoy the experiences that you cannot get anywhere else. We are delighted to continue hosting these training events across the GCC to build on this growth, and amplifying our digital marketing activities to showcase how accessible Britain is for visitors from the GCC.”
“From quirky boutiques to designer brands, from the traditional afternoon tea to a once in a lifetime dining experience, Great Britain has it all. For the sports fans or the relaxation seekers, Great Britain is an exciting football destination and a breathtaking countryside adventure. Britain is the must-go-now destination for visitors from the GCC.”
Latest figures show that GCC rose 12 per cent and 5 per cent respectively comparing visits and spend in January – September 2019 compared to the first nine months of 2018. Overall, there were a total 723,000 visits, a new first nine-month record, with those visitors spending up to £1.4 billion ($ billion) in the UK during those months.
The numbers are testament to tourism’s importance as a driver of economic growth and they represent people from the GCC who come to enjoy Britain’s culture, heritage and countryside. They are a reminder of the crucial role that tourism has in offering a warm welcome to the many millions of visitors who travel to Britain each year.
Over the past 10 years (2008-2018) visits from the GCC to Britain grew 84 per cent and spend increased by 124 per cent. In 2018, the UK was the most visited destination in Western Europe by GCC travellers.
“The UAE also reached a new January – September record for visits in 2019, up 14 per cent year on year to 326,000 visits,” Santos tells us.
However, GCC visitors remain London-centric and one of the challenges for the tourism body is to get people to explore outside of the megapolis. “We focus on pushing travel to regional England – staying longer, travelling further, spending more. We will focus on culinary and shopping experiences and activities on offer in London and Manchester and destinations within two-hours travelling of these cities, like Windsor, Oxford, or the Lake District,” says Santos.
Another mandate is to focus on luxury products, promoting VIP shopping experiences over winter in Bicester Village just within one hour of central London or during spring promoting ‘Experience England,’ which makes it easier for GCC travellers to visit London and discover other parts of England like the Lake District, flying out from Manchester or Birmingham as part of the same holiday. It will include open jaw-ticketing, travel between destinations and seamless baggage transfer.
Horseracing, ‘Sport of Kings’ product, a very niche product, promotes luxury sporting in Ascot or Newmarket, that includes the Godolphin Stables owned by the Al Maktoum family, rulers of Dubai and one of the six ruling families of the United Arab Emirates. The ‘Horse Racing – Sport of Kings’ also includes VIP tours of racehorse stud-farms and training stables, as well as visits to world-class heritage and sporting venues including Castle Howard and Manchester United’s Old Trafford.
“We will also engage high income expatriate communities in the UAE, by launching a campaign targeting specifically British expats living in the country, inviting them to re-discover GB. British expats usually go back over summer, so we will be showing them why should they extend their stay and experience, for example, Manchester Food Walks, the Jewellery quarter or even the Crystal Maze. This will leverage the summer footfall, longer stays and higher spend,” says Santos.
IRELAND TRAVEL COMPANIES VISIT UAE
SOME of Ireland’s top travel, tourism and hospitality organisations visited the UAE this week for Tourism Ireland’s 10th annual Trade Mission, to further promote tourism, travel and bilateral connections between the two countries. The island of Ireland has witnessed a 34 per cent increase in visitor numbers from the GCC over the past five years, and the UAE specifically remains one of the fastest growing emerging markets for the country.
Taking place in Abu Dhabi on January 27 and Dubai on January 28, more than 200 UAE companies met with the Irish business partners directly, to further strengthen relations and business opportunities by means of a series of one-to-one appointments, workshops and networking sessions.
The two-day event focused on two core themes: Taste the Island – a three-year long festival that promotes the island of Ireland’s extensive catalogue of food and drink experiences to domestic and international visitors; and ‘Embrace a giant spirit’ – a theme launched by Tourism Northern Ireland to communicate a high quality experience to visitors that is recognisable as distinctively Northern Irish.
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.
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