Gulf countries go all out to woo Indian, Chinese tourists

Feeling the pressure of low oil prices and depreciated currency rates, the Gulf countries are focussing on the tourism industry with an eye on attracting Indian and Chinese tourists

Photo by Waseem Andrabi/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Waseem Andrabi/Hindustan Times via Getty Images


Gulf countries, pressurised due to low oil prices, are increasing their efforts to woo Indian and Chinese travellers to boost the tourism industry, according to a report published during the ongoing Arabian Travel Market trade show in Dubai.

In an average, 122 million Chinese tourists visit the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries annually and India contributes 22 million, with overseas spending calculated to be $252 billion and $15.4 billion respectively in 2015.

China's outbound tourism market is currently growing on an average of 6.7%, while India's market posts average annual growth of 7%, according to the report.

"The GCC is home to several globally-recognised tourist attractions and continues to draw visitors from all over the world. As markets in Europe and other GCC countries continue to feel the pressure of low oil prices and depreciated currency rates, it is key that tourism bodies and private sector hospitality, travel and tourism brands continue to explore new markets," said Debrah Dhugga, Managing Director, Dukes London and Dukes Dubai.

The trend is getting stronger largely by increasing levels of personal wealth and a demand for experiential travel.

India is home to 4,33,000 high networth individuals (HNWI) with 59 million considered urban middle and educated urban and 97 million counted as urban blue collar workers.

Together they represent almost 31% of the population that is eligible and likely to travel, the report said.

"The growing middle class and cheaper flight options are transforming the outbound travel landscape for these two countries, with a combined 146 million passport holders," said Filippo Sona, Director, Head of Hotels MENA region, Colliers International.

"Countries such as the UAE and Oman are increasing their efforts to attract Indian leisure tourists, through targeted entertainment offerings and promotional activities, while Saudi Arabia is expected to ramp up the visa quotas for the large Muslim Indian population to visit the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah,” Sona said.

In both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, India was the top performing source market in 2016. In Dubai, 1.8 million nationals arrived last year compared to 1.6 million in 2015 and Abu Dhabi welcomed a record-breaking 4.4 million visitors in total in 2016, out of which 3,23,388 were Indians.

Oman, which has seen an increase of 60% in the number of arrivals from India, welcomed 2,99,568 Indian tourists in 2016. Oman is also working to promote itself as a wedding destination to tourists from West Bengal.

The GCC is a regional inter-governmental political and economic union consisting of all Arab states of the Persian Gulf except for Iraq. Its member states are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

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