One of the most important steps in building a business is figuring out your target audience. But your customer base in the tourism industry can be ever-changing. Particularly when it comes to the outbound market.
As we've shared in previous studies and ebooks, trends and viral content can affect where people choose to travel. To be a successful tourism company, it's important to diversify as much as possible. So here are some insights about the growing Arabian travel market.
Trends and behaviors
Senior VP and Director of Travel and Logistics for ITB Berlin, Martin Buck notes that “the Middle East outbound market is developing into a lucrative niche market.” However, travel is more than just a nice luxury in most Arabian regions.
Travel is part of Arabian culture. It’s not at all unusual for tourists to go on three longer trips every year. These travelers could be especially influential for tour and activity providers. Some 27% of the Emirate tourists traveled for a tour holiday in 2015.
Given the love of tourism, it is no surprise that the industry is growing into a towering success. Local tour companies, and DMOs frequently work together to offer the type of world class experiences that capture their culture.
Another aspect of Arab culture is religion. It is an important part of daily life for most Arab travelers. Islam is the predominant religion of the region. While many of these travelers are Muslim, other religions live in the communities, including Christians, Jews, the Druze, and Alawites. The two sects of Islam include Shi'a and Sunni, which have similarities but distinct theological differences. Countries like Iraq are majority Shi'a, but a majority of Arab countries are Sunni.
Due to the prominence of these religions, it is important to understand the effects it has on a number of behaviors and other cultural aspects. Propriety is a matter of great importance. Conversations and interactions are much more modest in this culture than it tends to be in the Western world.
Attire is another important aspect. Whether you are traveling to an Arab county or conducting business in your own, stay mindful of how your clothing may be perceived. Men should try to avoid wearing anything that could be considered immodest such as shorts. Women should also avoid bare legs and arms.
Not only are the people in these regions traveling abroad, they are investing heavily in their local tourism industry. According to World Bank, in 2016, Saudi Arabia spent more than $40 billion on their investments in travel and tourism.
The Commission for Tourism and National Heritage allocated funds to aid in tourism projects for 2017. The commission also helps to fund hotel projects and even assists investors in helping establish more hospitality-focused businesses.
Simply announcing the intention to boost tourism was effective in building a stronger industry. The Euromonitor International Tourism Forecast report said domestic travel is expected to rise 40% compared to 2015 by 2020.
It seems the investment is paying off. There has been a steady climb in travelers, both domestic and international, traveling to Middle Eastern countries.
Top four experiences in the Middle East according to Lonely Planet
Even though Petra, Jordan and the Pyramids continue to be popular among the most travelers, one location that is steadily on the rise is Dubai. It's currently the seventh most visited city in the world. In 2016, Dubai reported a record-making 14.9 million overnight visitors.
According to the 2015 research by The First Group, the highest source markets of tourism in UAE include China, the UK, India, and America. The tourists who spent the most in this region during 2014 were the U.S. at 21%, Saudi Arabia at 12% and the UK at 9%.
Additionally, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Jordan have all seen steady tourism boosts in the last several years. This is important to note, as it shows that both inbound and outbound travel are on the rise.
However, it's not just people traveling to the Middle East. The outbound travel market has steadily climbed in recent years. According to World Travel Monitor results from IPK International, outbound travel of the Middle East grew by 9% in 2016, making it the world's fastest-growing market.
Oftentimes, these travelers are wealthy millennials with approximately 50% being under the age of 34. Their trips tend to be lengthy and full of heavier spending. These immersive experiences are built around seeing something new while spending heavily on entertainment and accommodation. This group is lead by travelers form the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Another interesting characteristic is that in 2014, about 30% of these outbound trips and tours were taken by immigrants with residence in the Middle East. Many of these expats were traveling to their home countries to see loved ones.
Actionable tips for this market
Here are some things you can do to help reach this engaging market:
1. Keep providing family-friendly tours.
At latest estimation, some 70% of these leisure travelers prefer to make their trips with family and their friends. Make sure your tours have something that will make them attractive to families traveling with children. Anything that feels unsafe or inconvenient is likely to scare away multigenerational travelers.
2. Offer several options.
Along with your standard packages, consider offering additional services. Custom packages are especially valued among this market.
3. Focus on wellness and health.
According to research by IPK International, travelers from Arab countries tend to take long trips for medical purposes. These travelers bring their family members or other loved ones with them, which further emphasizes the importance of family-friendly options.
4. Be mindful of cultural differences.
As with all cultures, everyday aspects like modesty and manners may be different. Be mindful of what could be considered offensive or disrespectful. If you're unsure, ask. As always, do not impose anything on your customers that make them uncomfortable.
5. Offer more female guides when appropriate. Along with respecting the sense of modesty in attire, be mindful that female travelers don't feel comfortable getting too close to a male. Have female guides available for all tours or activities you offer. Especially for anything that would require physical contact with a guide, such as paragliding.
6. Translate your tour and accompanying materials. You'll always attract your target audience if you're speaking their language. However, Arabic can be a difficult one. If you can't hire a bi-lingual guide or interpreter, have your tour materials translated and offer recordings that tourists can listen to along the tour.
Do you have experience reaching the Arabian travel market? Share your positive experiences with us in the comments.
Published by Sara Napier Burkhard
Sara is a writer from the American West Coast. In recent years, she's written for companies like Hipmunk, iTourMobile and Mylikes. She now resides in Zurich, Switzerland where she finds new adventures and attempts to speak German with minimal success.