MICE Arabia and Luxury Travel Congress attendees reflect on GCC travel trends

MICE Arabia and Luxury Travel Congress

According to key MICE and luxury travel specialists attending the fifth annual MICE Arabia and Luxury Travel Congress, the outbound market for MICE and luxury travel from the GCC region is witnessing shifting trends for destination preferences.

Commenting on this was chief operating officer – DMC, Smailing Tours & Travel Service, Indonesia, Jason Lim: “For MICE, unique destinations that are connected well in aviation routes, food requirements as well as destination safety and security play a big part in the considerations of buyers/planners, not to forget the relative costs of the destination.

“The strong currency in most of the GCC countries, which enables exchange benefits, makes for more attractive travel deals to Indonesia.”

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He added that the expat population in the GCC has contributed to the steady growth of outbound travel from the GCC countries.

Security is also of vital importance on a global scale for MICE, luxury travel and hospitality according to industry stakeholders.

Director of MICE, Nakhal Tours, Lebanon, Khaled Aridi commented on the subject: “The GCC market represents around 70 per cent of all inbound tourism in Lebanon. However, the recent political situation in Lebanon and the security conflicts in the MENA region have posed significant challenges to the development of this tourist demography.”

Aridi suggested visa free travel for the GCC countries, luxury hotels and high-quality services as well as Lebanese cuisine will act as stimulators to increase business and boost tourism in Lebanon.

Travellers from the GCC region tend to travel mostly from June to September, coinciding with school holidays and extreme summer heat. Exotic getaways need not always be sun, sea and sand-based. Travellers from the GCC region are now reportedly opting for alternative destinations.

Commenting on this was CEO, SNE Northern Europe (a Swedish DMC), Dag Kastensson: “Scandinavia is as exotic to the GCC client as the GCC countries are to us. In contrast to the hot summers in the GCC countries, we offer cool, blue majestic fjord waters and midnight sun—this change of climate can be very attractive.”

Meanwhile, representing the Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau, head of market development MICE, Guendalina Rampazzi noted that Switzerland’s weather and nature are a lure for travellers from the GCC.

“Switzerland is a dream destination in the GCC. It is well known as the place to go when seeking great nature, fresh air, excellent facilities and thrilling experiences. However, we believe in continuous improvement, and as such, Switzerland is focusing on increasing quality in every aspect. We strongly believe that quality is the differentiating factor in the MICE business in Switzerland. We hope to live up to our motto, ‘Switzerland Meeting Excellence’.”

Also key to the GCC traveller is the availability of halal food as well as cultural familiarity.

“Montenegro is a Mediterranean destination presenting GCC travellers with some form of familiarity,’’ said head of business, 3e travel d.o.o. – DMC, Montenegro, Borislav Jablan.

“Beside this familiarity, hospitality services in Montenegro are showing progress in terms of high quality-standards, necessary for authentic luxury travel experience.”

The event attendees also agreed that hassle-free visa processes are extremely important for drawing travellers from the GCC region.

Reflecting on the significance of the MICE Arabia and Luxury Travel Congress was director, QnA International (organiser of the event), Sidh N.C: “Platforms such as the MICE Arabia and Luxury Travel Congress, offer individuals representing country tourist bureaus and boards, and private tourism and hospitality institutions, a chance to understand the requirements of the GCC MICE and luxury traveller. It is easy to assume that halal food is the number one priority, but security, convenience and exciting experiences are all important too.”

The event will take place from March 1-2 at the Palazzo Versace, Dubai.