Reed Travel Exhibitions anticipates a surge of exhibition enquiries from UK based travel and hospitality companies following the recent lifting of visa requirements for UAE, Oman and Qatar nationals travelling to the UK.
Effective Q1 2014, citizens from the aforementioned three Gulf states visiting the UK, will be able to obtain a free electronic visa waiver 48 hours prior to their planned departure, which replaces the current visa application process. The waiver is also set to be extended to Kuwaiti nationals later next year.
“London is a perennial favourite among GCC travellers who flock to the capital in the summer months in search of cooler temperatures as well as to take advantage of the fantastic shopping, entertainment options and luxury hotel accommodation. VisitBritain’s (The British government-backed national tourism agency) 2020 forecast increase of up to 40% more UAE tourists choosing to spend time in the city, is great news for UK tourism,” said Mark Walsh, Portfolio Director, Reed Travel Exhibitions, the organiser of ATM 2014.
“Following the announcement we have already received a number of enquiries from UK-based companies eager to capitalise on the opportunity with first-time presence at ATM 2014, and we expect increased participation from a diverse cross-section of tourism and hospitality companies representing the UK as well,” added Walsh.
According to John Calthorpe, Managing Director, Pavilion Expo Limited, the organiser of the UK Pavillion at ATM, UK representation at the show will be buoyed by the news, “The 37% increase in visitors that VisitBritian announced from last year, has the possibility of being dwarfed by this visa waiver programme, with the initiative encouraging more frequent short breaks from the region.”
The UK Pavilion is also increasing year on year in terms of size and exhibitors.
“ATM 2014 will see the biggest and most popular UK Pavilion to date - 144 square metres and 34 exhibiting companies. London and Scotland are two of most active participants but we are hoping add other UK cities,” said Calthorpe.
Information published on www.gov.uk reveals that visa applications from UAE, Oman and Qatar are growing year-on-year led by Kuwaiti visitors who accounted for more than 63,000 applications in 2012, followed by the UAE (30,148), Qatar (20,490) and Oman (12,596).
VisitBritain reports a record 530,000 visitors from the GCC landed on British shores in 2012, representing a 6% increase on 2011. Boosted by global interest in the London Olympics, the UK enjoyed a record year for tourism last year with US$30.46 billion injected into the economy from overseas visitors, of which US$1.97 billion came from the GCC countries.
Visitors from the GCC are also among the highest spenders, with an average of US$3,417 per person per visit and the UK is second most visited destination by UAE residents with the number of visits doubling in the last decade.
“The UK and the UAE share very close ties and London has always been a popular destination for UAE citizens, as well as visitors from Oman and Qatar. Lifting the visa requirements will allow for increased travel opportunities benefiting numerous sectors such as travel, hospitality, retail and entertainment,” commented Debrah Dhugga, General Manager of the five-star Mayfair situated boutique hotel, DUKES London.
According to Walsh, outbound travel agencies and specialist tour operators in the UAE, as well as the country’s carriers, Emirates and Etihad Airways, are also expected to place increased emphasis and marketing spend on UK travel and routes once the new system is officially up-and-running.
The new visa waiver applies for short-term visits only with a six-month validity period, however those applying to study in the UK or enter for business, will still need to apply for a visa.