‘Discover Europe’ wins over 110 GCC buyers


This two-day networking event, held at 25Hours Hotel Dubai One Central from April 29-30, preceded the Arabian Travel Market (ATM), the largest travel exhibition in the region, which commenced immediately afterward. In collaboration with the European Travel Commission, Discover Europe attracted a minimum of 110 GCC buyers specializing in the cultural and luxury sectors of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. The summit facilitated nearly 4,500 meetings, bringing together both buyers and exhibitors.



Aisling McDermott, Manager Middle East & Asia of Tourism Ireland, said: “This is the second time Tourism Ireland participated in Discover Europe Travel Summit, a real showcase of Europe within the Middle East, a hosted buyers programme for over two days.”

Ireland currently welcomes over 75,000 tourists from the Middle East. Approximately 65 per cent of them are from the UAE followed by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain.

“This is a really strong developing market for us, with direct access from the UAE and Qatar and also visa free for UAE nationals. Plus, we have our Irish visa waiver programme, which means people can travel to Ireland on a valid UK visit visa.

“Tourism Ireland in the Middle East is focused on three core channels – trade, publicity and consumer – and our trade activations cover Discover Europe Travel Summit and Arabian Travel Market, where we’re partnering with Visit Britain for a hosted buyers event. We also have Meitheal (Irish for welcome), a travel trade event running since 1975, where we bring 250 buyers from across the globe, including eight from the Middle East over to Ireland on a fam trip, and then for one-to-one workshops. We also have a number of other familiarisation trips, trade activations and cooperative campaigns active over the year,” McDermott tells us.

Tourism Ireland had 13 Irish suppliers visiting the UAE from accommodation, DMCs, luxury five-star hotels, golf and luxury experiences.



Michael Tauschmann, Head of Markets Middle East & India at the Austrian National Tourist Office, said: “The GCC market has shown itself to be the most resilient market after Covid-19 and it has had the fastest rebound for Austria. The number of overnights from GCC citizens is almost at the level of 2019. Last year, we were at 1.1 million overnights from all the GCC countries into Austria. In 2019, which was a record year for Austrian tourism, we had 1.3 million overnights from GCC countries. We are slowly approaching that mark and I’m very optimistic to reach 2019 numbers by the end of this year.”

Austrian National Tourist Office hosted 17 suppliers including city tourism boards such as Vienna, Lech Zürs and Salzburg, leisure and shopping destinations such as Swarovski Crystal Worlds and several five-star hotels and palace hotels such as Falkensteiner Schlosshotel Velden, Almanac Palais Vienna and Imperial Austria Palaces.

Apart from Discover Europe Travel Summit, which is one of the key engagements of ANTO in the GCC, Tauschmann talks about Austria’s biggest travel trade fair Austrian Travel Business (ATB), where he hosted seven buyers from the region earlier this year. Come October, Austria organises its own pan-Gulf roadshow with Austrian suppliers covering Qatar, Kuwait, Riyadh and UAE. There are also plans to exhibit alongside partners at a private luxury event in Abu Dhabi.



Yamina Sofo, Director of the Dubai-based German National Tourist Office (GNTO), the regional office of the German National Tourist Board (GNTB), added: “We have 27 partners from Germany, some repeat visitors, some newcomers. Last year, we had 25 suppliers. We see an increasing interest in the market, because our partners from Germany see how worthwhile it is to invest in this market and in the GCC client.”

Germany had a varied mix of partners from city tourism offices such as Visit Berlin, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Munich, Baden-Baden, Wiesbaden, Hannover and more. This was supplemented by a selection of hotels around the country, shopping and leisure destinations and two incoming agencies: Emissa Travel and SETT Worldwide Reservations, which specialises in sport events. Sofo tells us, “Sports events are quite really popular for our buyers. We are excited because Germany is hosting the 2024 UEFA European Football Championship in 11 cities all over Germany from June 14 to July 14, and this will be particularly popular for travellers from the region.”



Matthias Albrecht, Director GCC of Switzerland Tourism, said, “It’s a special pleasure to see “Discover Europe” growing and blooming, especially as it will be my last one. But to showcase Switzerland to the GCC in the middle of our European friends is not only a lot of fun, it’s also very important to us. The GCC are a priority market, the highest tier in our market framework. In 2022, visitors from the GCC to Switzerland almost reached the level of 2019 pre-pandemic and growth is continuing strongly into 2023 - it seems that Switzerland’s green nature, the fresh air, it’s deep blue lakes, snow-capped mountains, lively cities and our sustainable train offering is never losing its charm. We are looking forward to welcome many more visitors from the GCC in Switzerland this summer.”

Switzerland Tourism had the strongest delegation with 45 suppliers from the alpine nation. Albrecht tells us, “This is the biggest delegation we have ever had here in Dubai. It shows how important the GCC market really is. It shows that Switzerland cares about this market, and that we really want to meet the right people.”

Swiss suppliers include several luxury hotels, railways and cable car companies such as Rail Europe, Titlis Cableways and Schilthorn Cableway, and tourism boards such as Crans-Montana Tourism, Destination Davos Klosters and Geneva Tourism, among others. 


On the sidelines of Discover Europe Travel Summit, TTN spoke to Alison Milton, Ambassador of Ireland to the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait, the country’s first ever female ambassador, about the rise of Middle Eastern tourists into the island nation.

“We know that when Emiratis and Qataris and people from the GCC in general come to Ireland, they leave with their hearts filled with Ireland, which is actually the name of our current marketing campaign – Fill Your Hearts with Ireland.

“We really want to attract tourists from all over the GCC. This is a very important new market for Ireland. We have at least three direct flights per day out of the UAE, two from Dubai and one from Abu Dhabi. UAE nationals have been visa exempt from Ireland, so they get their visas on arrival at the airport.

“We have an incredibly strong relationship with the UAE, since the country was born 51 years ago, and we have a very strong Irish community here. The UAE is home to one of the top 10 largest Irish diasporas around the world, which is really quite incredible when you think of countries like the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand.

“We are both small countries, both ambitious in terms of our foreign policy objectives and projecting ourselves as a key partner in the world. We have a very strong trade relationship with the UAE of about €760 million in bilateral goods trade and it’s growing all the time,” Milton tells us.