Young generation to reshape travel market in the Gulf region

Traditional travel behaviours of GCC population are poised to undergo an inevitable transformation in 15 years, with the upcoming tech-savvy generation turning instinctively to mobile technologies and social media to plan, book and manage travel, a research reveals.

As the young population of the region will reshape the travel industry in the region, additional unfolding demographic factors such as steady inflow of expatriate workers, robust natural population growth and a growing middle class will combine to drive a new and divergent set of travel behaviours and needs in the region, says the Amadeus-commissioned report “Shaping the Future of Travel in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): Big Travel Effects.”

“Today, nearly 25 per cent of the GCC population is under 15 years of age, and as this demographic becomes tomorrow’s decision makers, traditional travel behaviours will witness a transformation and become increasingly self-directed,” the report said.

Air passenger traffic in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Oman is expected to grow at a 6.6 per cent, 6.9 per cent, and 7.5 per cent compound annual growth rate respectively, between 2012 and 2017 as the Middle East aviation market is expected to receive the delivery of 2,610 aircraft between 2012 and 2032, valued at $550 billion. As a result, the Middle East region will have a total fleet size of 2,850 aircraft in 2032 and the total air passenger traffic on outbound routes from the region is expected to outpace that on traditional routes such as Europe – Europe, Europe – North America, and North America – North America, Alpen Capital said in a recent report.

The report, researched and collated by Frost & Sullivan and Insights and commissioned by Amadeus, examines and contextualises the various ways a new travel landscape will develop in the Gulf region over the next 15 years.

“The Gulf region is poised for a new era of travel as investment in infrastructure, new tourism sectors, and governmental initiatives to ease intra- and extra-regional movement and make the GCC more attractive to leisure and business travellers,” said Antoine Medawar, Vice President, MENA, Amadeus.

“Travel providers who address the nuanced needs of the region’s population are likely to thrive in the coming decades. At Amadeus our people, our technology and our innovation are dedicated to helping our customers and partners shape the future of travel in this region,” said Medawar.

The research also finds that economies in the GCC are diversifying beyond oil, and specialist tourism sectors such as cruises, meetings and conferences and medical tourism play a prominent role in this diversification. “As a result, the GCC countries have maintained an average GDP growth of over five per cent in the past decade, with a greater increase expected in the future.”

Another find of the research is that tourism will have a trickle-down effect into other sectors, furthering economic growth and diversification. Hospitality and construction in particular will benefit as the number of travellers entering or passing through the region increases – Qatar expects 3.7 million tourists in 2022 around the FIFA World Cup and is investing $20 billion on tourism infrastructure and $140 billion on transport.

The report also notes that with the GCC working to make travel easier, both within the region and outbound, improved visa accessibility within the region and abroad is expected to increase the number of intra-regional travellers to four-fold by 2030.

“Travel in the Gulf region is changing. Economic diversification and a move from oil is an important driver, but there are several subtle factors at play too. Changes in population and geopolitical pressure to open borders and make movement easier are also impacting the future of travel here,” observed Mona Faraj, Managing Partner, Insights.

The report, researched and collated by Frost & Sullivan and Insights and commissioned by Amadeus by surveying over 1,000 travellers from the region as well as through interviews with thought leaders in the travel industry.