Destinations eye a piece of Middle East pie

TTN Middle East had the opportunity to speak to several tourism boards in the last few months and the message has been unanimous: the Middle East and the UAE, in particular, is definitely part of their growth strategy in building back better.

Luís Araújo, President of European Travel Commission and President of Portuguese National Tourism Authority, says that while Portugal Tourism doesn’t have an outpost here in the Middle East, it is going to be one of its priority markets going forward.

“We have changed our strategy a lot in the past two years. We now focus on a pull strategy: we bring tour operators into Portugal instead of doing road shows and showcasing the country.

“There is a common ground between Portugal and the Middle East and I strongly believe there will be a powerful connection between us in the future,” Araújo says.

“Our equine history and unique Lusitanian horse breed is a perfect draw for travellers from the region. We are working on a new kind of equine tourism with the opening of the Royal Horse Farm in the Alentejo region of Portugal, which offers everything from horseback riding to a glimpse into the history of the breed from the times of kings.” 

There is a common ground between Portugal and the Middle East and I strongly believe there will be a powerful connection between us in the future
– Luís Araújo


Opened under two years ago, The Vila Galé Collection Alter Real - Equestrian Resort, Conference & Spa has access to the Royal Horse Farm, and features 77 rooms, three outdoor swimming pools, a spa with heated indoor pool, and a restaurant. It also houses a horse museum, as well as a traditional olive oil press. An investment of ten million euros was pumped into the property to convert a portion of the state-owned Alter Horse Farm.

Over the past two years, Portugal has been upgrading its offering by endorsing products that are uniquely Portuguese and focusing on innovation, authenticity and the arts. Grape beverage tourism, nature hikes and cycling have been incorporated into the portfolio, he tells us. “For this year, our focus is on Portuguese architecture and contemporary art. Discerning travellers from the Middle East will appreciate our delicate metalwork, including silver and goldwork, our tile art and beautiful tapestries.

Beautiful, authentic objects and experiences have also been the mainstay of the Spanish offering, especially in capital Madrid as Hector Coronel, Director of Tourism, Madrid City Council, and Princess Béatrice d´Orléans, Honorary President of Luxury Spain, tell TTN.

“Madrid is now booming in the international market. We now have all the top luxury brands, like the Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons, Rosewood, Edition and JW Marriott. We also have great experiences: The Royal Palace, the Royal Theatre, which is the best opera theatre in the world, Reina Sofía, Spain's national museum of 20th-century art, are all located within just 500 metres, making it one of the most valuable cultural assets in the world all located within one block.

“We want to show a different Madrid, but without losing its essence, which comes in the form of its traditions, its handicrafts, its artisans and of course, its gastronomy. In Madrid, we are implementing a new strategic plan, and one of the key main pillars, is the artisans, the handicrafts that reflect the history of Madrid and of Spain, and its multi-faithed people.”

Madrid has put sustainability squarely on its agenda, and not just environmentally but also culturally and socio-economically. “We have a commitment to be a carbon-neutral destination and since last year, we have started measuring, reducing and compensating our footprint. We are aligned with UNDP’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In the same vein, it is our hope and aim that artisans will bring tourists to every part of the city, and not just to the downtown – to complete the economic circle, give tourists the opportunity to give back to the community.”

Meanwhile some more sensitive markets also made some progress in promoting their destinations to the UAE. The Israel Ministry of Tourism hosted a B2B workshop for travel partners in the UAE. Dignitaries from the Ministry shared an informative destination presentation showcasing exceptional prospects for post-covid tourism.

" We want to show a different Madrid, but without losing its essence, which comes in the form of its traditions, its handicrafts, its artisans and of course, its gastronomy"
– Hector Coronel


Speaking at the event, Ksenia Kobiakov, New Markets Development Department Director, Israel Ministry of Tourism, said, “There is a tremendous potential in the UAE to drive incoming tourists to Israel. I hope travellers from the UAE will appreciate Israel’s unique offerings, and I believe they will want to visit more than once. We look forward to welcoming UAE tourists to witness the wonders of our country. This year, our focus would be to introduce the hidden gem to the travellers from this market. We are looking to promote the country as a destination targeting families, FIT experiential travellers, religious, MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) and leisure travellers through various B2B and B2C activities like media and trade familiarisation trips, roadshows, cooperation with travel trade and airlines.”

Israel is a country of contrasts, bridging the ancient and historical with an intricate blend of modern and contemporary architecture. In this small country lies a rich landscape encompassing nine climate zones, which all together set the ground for vivid surroundings, representing a perfect holiday destination.

The travel corridor between Israel and the UAE will strengthen bilateral ties whilst building more efficient services to ease travel between both countries. Flydubai operates 14 flights a week, twice a day, between Dubai and Tel Aviv-Yafo. Etihad Airways and Wizz Air offer direct flights from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv-Yafo. In addition, travellers can also opt for Israeli airlines like El-AL, Israir, Arkia Airlines for direct connectivity between both destinations. Furthermore, Emirates is expected to operate UAE – Israel route in the near future.