ATM 2019: GCC to witness surge in Chinese arrivals

ATM 2019

Recent data published ahead of the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2019 revealed that the number of Chinese tourists travelling to the GCC is predicted to rise by an impressive 81 per cent, from 1.6 million in 2018 to 2.9 million in 2022.

Conducted by Colliers International in partnership with ATM 2019, the latest research further indicated that GCC countries currently attract just one per cent of China’s total outbound market. Nevertheless, positive trends are expected over the coming years, with 400 million Chinese tourists expected to travel abroad in 2030.

Looking at the economic drivers, China’s links with the GCC have strengthened in recent years due to the introduction of additional and direct airline routes, the growth of the Chinese economy and Chinese travellers’ increasing disposable income.


Keen to capitalise on this potential, figures from ATM 2018 show 25 per cent of delegates, exhibitors and attendees were interested in doing business with China.

Exhibition director ME, ATM, Danielle Curtis stated: “China is set to account for a quarter of international tourism by 2030, and owing to its many business and investment opportunities, as well as a new generation of leisure attractions and retail destinations, the GCC is set to capitalise on this growth.

“Last year, the number of Chinese exhibitors participating at ATM almost doubled, and this trend looks set to continue as we look ahead to ATM 2019. Over the years, sentiment at ATM has reflected the growth in Chinese tourists to the GCC, and today, we have seen more hotel and travel professionals than ever before eager to capitalise on the significant opportunities presented by the Chinese market,” she added.

Colliers International’s data shows Saudi Arabia will experience the highest proportionate increase in arrivals from China, with a projected Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 33 per cent between 2018 and 2022. Both the Kingdom and China’s cultural and educational exchanges have been cited as one of the key elements driving this influx.

Looking at the remainder of the GCC, the UAE will follow with a forecasted CAGR of 13 per cent, Oman at 12 per cent and both Bahrain and Kuwait will steadily increase their Chinese visitor arrivals with a growth of seven per cent.

Over the last 10 years, airports in the Middle East and China have shown the fastest increase in hub connectivity worldwide with Emirates Airline, Etihad, Saudia, Gulf Air, China Eastern and Air China all providing direct flights between the GCC and various destinations in China.

Emirates Airline, the leading passenger service provider from the GCC to China, now offers 38 weekly flights between both destinations.

During 2018, China Eastern announced plans to launch three-times weekly direct flights between Shanghai and Dubai – further complementing the airline’s three existing flights between Shanghai and Dubai, which have a stopover in Kunming, the capital of China’s Yunnan province.