Middle East tourists’ spend in UK up 4%; Saudi posts fastest growth

Tuesday, 19 May 2015 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Tourists from GCC states spent a whopping £1.1 billion ($1.72 billion) in the UK during the first nine months of 2014 on the back of surging visitor numbers from Saudi Arabia, which has emerged as the fastest growing market in the region for the British tourism sector.

The figures represented a growth of 4% over the same period in the previous year.

Among the GCC countries, the fastest growth was recorded by Saudi Arabia with a 42% jump in visitor nights (1.9 million) and a 58% increase in spend, mainly driven by the kingdom’s families, Christopher Rodrigues, the chairman of VisitBritain, the UK’s national tourism agency, told the TTN.

Saudi Arabia clocked a record 114,000 visits to the UK and a spend of £301 million ($474.2 million) in the first nine months of 2014, he said.

Rodrigues was speaking on the sidelines of VisitBritain’s largest annual Asia Pacific Middle East overseas B2B tourism mission held recently in Bali, Indonesia.

According to him, by 2020, Saudi Arabia is poised to have the highest projected value percentage growth of about 181% among the 20 major and emerging markets.

Despite the spectacular performance by the Saudis, the biggest market for the UK in the region is still the UAE, with its residents spending about £344 million ($542 million), accounting for 198,000 visitor numbers in the first nine months of 2014.

The other key markets in the region are Kuwait with a spend of £279 million ($440 million) for 74,000 visits and Qatar with £98 million ($154 million) for 44,000 visits.

The other Gulf states too contributed to the growing numbers, said the VisitBritain chief. “Bahrainis spent about £48 million ($76 million) for 18,000 visits and Omanis £27 million ($42.5 million) for 18,000 nights,” he added.

In the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa (Apmea) region, Australia is the reigning giant and has been consistently delivering new records for both visitor nights and spend in Britain, he said.  

The latest tourism figures show significant growth in visits to Britain from the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa regions, stated Rodrigues at The Destination Britain Apmea 2015.

About 53 UK representatives from tourism businesses across Britain, including attractions, hotels, tour operators, regional tourist boards and transport providers, took part in the event.

The three-day event saw them connect with 84 of the top travel agents from 18 countries across Asia, Pacific, Middle East via a series of one-on-one workshop meetings and networking events.

Rodrigues said another major player from the region, India too had seen a spurt in spending by its nationals in the UK. The spend by Indian visitors grew 3% to £340 million ($533 million) in the first nine months of 2014 compared to the same period a year ago, whilst spend by Japanese visitors went up by 12%.