WiT (Web in Travel) Middle East is to return to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates next month on 7th April, with winds of change coming to the travel market in the region thanks to Saudi Arabia opening up and the countdown to World Expo 2020.
Another reason for the changes sweeping through the market is the increased migration to mobile by many consumers.
Saudi Arabia has made use of its Vision 2020 programme to put in place a wide array of new initiatives, including the freeing of visa regulations, the ramping up of tourist promotional activities, and the investment of billions into the development of tourism infrastructure.
The government of Saudi Arabia wants to see tourism contributing as much as 10% to GDP within 10 years (it currently contributes just 2%).
This will require attracting up to 100 million visits per annum, an increase of 60 million from the current figure, and will result in the creation of over $100bn in tourism spending, while also attracting as many as 30 million pilgrims.
The executive vice president of the Centre of Excellence for leading Saudi travel brand Seera Group, Tarique Khatri, says that the move to make the Kingdom a tourist destination is the region’s most exciting development.
The recent tourist e-visa launch was a big milestone for Saudi Arabia and the region as a whole with 350,000 e-visas issued in Q4 of last year, according to Khatri.
The move is positive for the Kingdom, with the focus on Saudi Vision 2030 boosting the tourism industry by promoting outbound and inbound travel services alike, positioning the nation as one of the leading tourist destinations in the world.
Seera Group has been undergoing a rapid transformation in order to prepare for this future, with a name change from Al-Tayyar and the launch of the first destination management company in the Kingdom in the form of Discover Saudi, a $133m investment.
Just 2% of inbound trips are currently for leisure purposes, and the intention is for Discover Saudi to provide curated experiences for both domestic and international travellers in addition to services for business travellers and Umrah and Hajj pilgrims.
The founder and CEO of Cleartrip, Stuart Crighton, agrees that the opening up of the domestic travel market in Saudi Arabia plus investments to position it as an unexplored destination for tourists is one of the region’s most exciting developments.
It is not just Saudi Arabia experiencing high travel growth, with such rates being witnessed across the region, according to Ross Veitch, the CEO of leading Middle East travel brand Wego.
The company is seeing a rise in interest in the MENA regional market from international online travel players wanting to be a part of the high growth rates, big basket sizes and high travel frequencies of the region, which includes the UAE.
Anyone wanting to travel to or from the MENA region should take out travel insurance to ensure financial protection from all unforeseen travel events.