Middle East Profile;
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Middle East (GCC) Market Profile

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a political and economic union involving the six Arab nations of the Persian Gulf: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. This emerging market shows promise due to its high average visitor stay and spend (especially on luxury), and an increasing trend toward long-haul travel outside the peak summer season. GCC travelers are willing to book last-minute trips, making tactical promotions in the region an effective tool to cover dips in California occupancy.


Market Profile

$770 Million
Preliminary Visitor Spending, 2019
$885 Million*
Forecasted Visitor Spending, 2023
*Reflects pre-coronavirus forecast.
18.4%
Market Share (U.S. Spend), 2018

Travel & Planning

Airlift (2019)

  • 28 weekly nonstop flights
  • 11,000 weekly nonstop seats
  • 2 entry points (Los Angeles, San Francisco)

Booking

  • Average planning timeframe: 3 to 4 months
  • Average booking timeframe: 2 to 3 months
  • Travel agencies remain a top booking method
  • 87% of GCC travelers use social networks and online research to plan their travel
  • Peak travel months: June, July, August and September

Visitor Characteristics

Sought-After Travel Experiences

  • Exploration: GCC travelers enjoy exploring destinations that are new and undiscovered.
  • Family Experiences: GCC travelers seek out family-friendly experiences because they travel in large groups with their immediate and extended families.
  • Luxury: GCC travelers spend more per trip than the global average and seek out luxury experiences wherever they go.

How to reach GCC Travelers

  • Word of Mouth
  • Social Media
  • Travel Agent

Market Conditions

The GCC’s GDP has continued to grow over the last two decades to a total of a more than $1.4 trillion. While GDP varies significantly across the six GCC member nations, average annual growth has been highest in Qatar at 16.2%.


Competitive Landscape

Due to the short length of travel paired with the appeal of museums, theme parks and national parks, Florida and New York have been priority long-haul destinations for GCC travelers. The U.K. continues to be top of mind for short-haul travel, with several direct flight options and frequent promotions. Australia and New Zealand’s outdoor adventure offerings have positioned them as new long-haul destinations for GCC travelers. A benefit to the United States, Abu Dhabi airport (Etihad) has U.S. immigration and customs pre-clearance allowing passengers to arrive in LAX as domestic passengers. The same pre-clearance facility is expected at Jeddah Airport in Saudi Arabia with Saudia Airlines.

Opportunities
End of year travel to long-haul destinations is increasing providing opportunities to expand the ‘travel season’ to California outside of the summer. Additionally, relatively short booking lead times provide opportunities for tactical promotions to possibly provide demand for any upcoming dips in Californian occupancy.

Challenges
As the GCC economies are tied to oil prices, any drop in prices tend to reduce international travel. Additionally, many flight durations have lengthened since Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt blocked Qatar Airways from their airspace.


Sources

  • VCA adjusted- Tourism Economics, U.S. Travel and Tourism
  • DIIO, 2019
  • U.S. Dept. of Commerce, NTTO, SIAT, CIIC Research
  • Travel Trak America, 2018
  • World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) (Middle East data)
  • Market Vision (GCC estimates)