Ask anyone what’s the one word that will define Middle East travel 2020 and beyond and the answer is clearly “Saudi”. Already the outbound powerhouse of the region with its 34m population, the opening of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to leisure tourism has marked it squarely as the key driver of change.
The Saudi government has set a target of attracting 100m annual visits by 2030 (the current number is 40m) and all eyes are how it will face up and scale up to that future in terms of infrastructure development, marketing efforts and social changes.
Another key word is “Expo 2020 Dubai”, which aims to position this amazing city squarely as a city of and for the future. Authorities have set an ambitious target of 25 million visits for the six-month event (October 20, 2020-April 10, 2021), with more than 70pc projected to come from outside the UAE, the largest proportion of international visitors in the 168-year history of world expos.
Yet another key word is “digital”, which is at the heart of WiT. The migration of travellers from offline to online continues unabated, with high mobile adoption rates fueling the surge.
According to major online travel brands in the region, more than 70% of people in the MENA region already book their flight and hotel using smartphones.
There are other trends driving change in the Middle East market of course – more hotels being built, more airports stepping up their efforts to woo more airlines, more low cost airlines adding capacity, more destinations from Abu Dhabi to Turkey and Egypt stepping up promotions …
One thing is for sure, the new decade will bring about even more change and you need to be there to be part of it.