UKinbound took a stand at Arabian Travel Market (ATM) for the first time this year to boost ties with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries in response to Brexit.
UKinbound chief executive Deirdre Wells said in a Brexit panel session chaired by TTG Media group editor Pippa Jacks, that the GCC region had been identified as an important growth area for UK tourism.
“The GCC is our 15th biggest source market but it’s actually the third biggest in terms of spend,” said Wells. “So we are really excited to be here, to try to make sure that that market continues to grow.”
She added that recent research into GCC travellers’ preferences showed that beautiful landscapes and the opportunity to “have fun” were key for this market.
“Our heritage and culture is well-known but we’ve brought businesses with us to ATM that promote our landscape and the variety of things you can do in the UK,” she explained.
Wells admitted that confidence among UKinbound members – which include hotels, attractions and inbound tour operators – about the post-Brexit future is currently low: “Confidence level has dropped quite dramatically in the last few months as we get closer to Brexit; everyone wants certainty and there is none.”
However, Lisa McAuley, dnata Travel Europe’s managing director of B2B tour operations, said she did not believe Brexit is currently impacting on the outbound leisure market from the UK. Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed the UK outbound market dipped in the last quarter of 2017, but McAuley pointed out that it was corporate travel and VFR (visiting friends and relatives) that decreased, while travel for holidays increased by 1%.
“We’re not seeing a softened market within our own business,” she reported. “We’ve had record-breaking days on a regular basis during the peaks period, including days where we’ve seen 25-30% growth year-on-year in terms of bookings.”
Dr Abed Al Razzaq Arabiyat, managing director of the Jordan Tourist Board, said the UK market has been growing for Jordan at around 7-9% per year in recent years, but admitted other European markets have grown more quickly.
He said he expected Brexit to negatively impact low-cost air travel between the UK and Jordan, but said legacy carriers could stand to gain from the UK’s divorce from the EU.
McAuley added she was encouraged to hear from suppliers at ATM that they were not altering their forward view of the UK market because of Brexit.