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Family trips dominate outbound travel from the GCC

Muslims beach holidayFamily and multi-generational travel is a rapidly expanding tourist segment within the global tourism industry and with a number of Saudis willing to explore new destinations outside their comfort zones, there are substantial opportunities for businesses outside the Middle East, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Current analysis is mostly focused on the emergence of this trend in the West, with consumers showing growing interest in adventure, active and cultural family holidays. Despite family travel being substantially bigger in the Middle East, especially in states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the attitudes and preferences of this cohort remain relatively unexplored.

saudi arabia travel patternsGlobalData’s report: ‘Tourism Source Market Insights: Gulf Cooperation Council’ states that though the GCC countries make up only 12.6% of the total population of the Middle East, they comprise 64.2% of the total international departures from the region, a fact that highlights the importance and potential of the countries of the Arabian Peninsula as a global tourism source market. Qataris and Kuwaitis are topping the global list of average outbound expenditure per resident.

Konstantina Boutsioukou, Travel and Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Family trips dominate outbound travel from the GCC. For instance, in Saudi Arabia family travel accounts for 73.1% of international departures, a fact that highlights the great opportunities for businesses willing to target this cohort.”

Saudi travelers typically stay within the Middle East. Bahrain, the UAE and Jordan are the three most visited destinations. Jordan, realizing the potential that lies in family travel has effectively tapped into this trend by diversifying its tourism offering to match the needs of these visitors.

Boutsioukou continues: “Visits to historical heritage sites such as Petra, Wadi Rum and the Gulf of Aqaba add an educational aspect to trips. Families can combine a cultural trip with a sun and beach holiday where they can relax in the seaside resorts of the Red Sea and enjoy the area’s nature and milder climate. The political stability and security, as well as the shared language, religion and values have also played an important role in the popularity of Jordan among Saudis.”

Yet, as a number of Saudis are willing to explore new destinations, there are extensive opportunities for businesses outside the Middle East. Given the importance that most Muslim GCC residents place on their religion, respecting their faith, showing an understanding of their culture and trying to cater for their specific needs is essential for businesses willing to target this market.

Boutsioukou adds: “Hoteliers, tour operators and foodservice businesses can provide prayer mats and the direction of Qibla (prayer direction) as well as include halal food and special buffets during Ramadan and not offer alcohol. 

“Furthermore, respecting the desire of travelers to be physically close to their family members, even if this means staying at the same floor or in adjacent rooms in a hotel, businesses can ensure that they are creating a friendly and accepting environment that will make their visitors feel at ease, despite substantial differences in culture and social norms.”

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