Chinese arrivals to the GCC will increase 21 percent to 2021, rising to 2.5 million visitors annually, according to data released ahead of Arabian Travel Market 2018, which takes place at Dubai World Trade Centre from April 22-25.
Published by Colliers International, the data predicts Saudi Arabia will experience the highest proportionate increase in arrivals from China, up by 35 percent compared to 2016 figures. The UAE will follow at 20 percent, with Oman at 12 percent and Bahrain and Kuwait at seven percent.
GCC countries currently attract almost two percent of China’s total outbound market, up from 1.3 percent in 2012, however positive trends are expected to continue as 154 million Chinese tourists prepare to go abroad in 2018 and a predicted 244 million follow in 2022.
The Colliers data follows four years of steady growth in Chinese arrivals to the GCC, spurred by the business, leisure and religious tourism sectors. Chinese travellers today seek unexplored cities and cultures, with GCC governments courting them through roadshows, exhibitions and cultural exchanges. Further supporting this drive, over recent years, regional brands including airlines, hotels and tourism bodies have opened representative offices across China.
Every year, almost 15,000 Chinese Muslims visit the two Holy Cities, and that number will increase as China’s Muslim population grows to account for two percent of the total population by 2030. Strengthening these ties, in 2017 Saudi Arabia loaned Arab artefacts from the pre-historic, pre-Islamic and Islamic periods to Chinese museums, further enhancing Chinese awareness of Arab culture.
Keen to capitalize on the potential, figures from ATM 2017 show the number of delegates, exhibitors and attendees interested in doing business with China had increased 63 percent year on year, with the number of delegates arriving from China, up 28 percent.
“Over the years, sentiment at ATM has reflected the growth in Chinese tourists to the GCC and today we have seen more businesses than ever before eager to capitalise on the opportunities presented by the Chinese market,” said Simon Press, senior exhibition director at ATM.