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Global travel industry rebounds rapidly, sets for sustained growth

DUBAI — The global travel industry has rebounded rapidly from the 2009 financial crises and is poised for a period of sustained growth over the next decade, specifically in the Middle East, according to findings from Amadeus’ latest global report ‘Shaping the Future of Travel – Macro trends driving industry growth over the next decade’.

Globally, overnight visitor flows are expected to grow at 5.4 percent per annum over the next decade, significantly faster than GDP growth of 3.4 percent. Subsequently, the Middle East and Africa region is expected to witness even higher growth, at an annual rate of 11.9 percent, a few percentage points above the 8.4 percent growth registered over the past 10-year period.

Amadeus, a leading technology provider for the global travel industry, highlighted the key findings at the four-day Arabian Travel Market that opened on May 5 at the Dubai International Exhibition and Convention Centre.

Antoine Medawar, Vice President, MENA, Amadeus, said: “It is encouraging to see such positive forecasts for our region. We can all feel optimistic signs of growth in the travel sector across most countries in the region, which is certain to have a halo effect on overall GDP.”

Written by Oxford Economics, the Amadeus-commissioned report forecasts a 7.6 percent growth in outbound travel spending for the Middle East and Africa over the next ten years, far ahead of Europe and the Americas but behind the substantial 17.9 percent growth for Asia. The Gulf region, due to its geographical position and the ambitious growth plans by its main international airlines is set to benefit from this “Asian effect”.

In the competition for long-haul transfer passenger traffic, hub airports in the Middle East are thus far winning the race.

“These statements may not come as a surprise to many but it is the relative scale of growth that is so impressive. Point to point traffic may be growing, but at the same time, airports are competing to be regional hubs.

Hub airports in the Middle East have profited from their strategic location between Asia, Africa, and Europe in attracting long-haul transfer passengers, with Dubai airport is leading the pack and bold leadership to invest in airport infrastructure and fleets,” added Medawar.

While the volume of international transfer long-haul origin and destination passengers across major European and North American hubs have been growing relatively modestly over the past five years — 8 percent in North America and 10 percent in Europe, the number of such transfer passengers flying through the Middle East hubs has been increasing at the rapid rate of 79 percent over the same period.

During the press conference at Arabian Travel Market, Amadeus also revealed preliminary findings from its soon-to-be-released report on the future of travel in the GCC. Commissioned by Amadeus and developed by Frost & Sullivan and Insights, the study assesses the ‘Big Travel Effects’ that will impact the travel sector in the region over the next fifteen years.

Addressing the media, Medawar said: “The under-15 population in the region, which represents approximately 21 percent of the total, with numbers in some countries such as Saudi Arabia going as high as 30 percent, has been highlighted as a prominent influencer in the future of travel in the region. This projection will be looked at by interest by the industry at large,” he said.

As this segment of the population matures, a new generation called “first-time” or “coming-of-age” travelers will join the global travel pool looking for new experiences. Like their counterparts across the world, their travel-related behavior will be heavily influenced by technology and social media.

Medawar added: “It is imperative that the travel industry gets ready for this phenomenon, and much of what Amadeus has on display at the Arabian Travel Market this year reflects our commitment to addressing these future trends. Our support of the online travel sector through development of mobile applications and our social marketing support tools are geared towards enabling our customers to engage the next generation traveler.” To be officially released later this month, the report will reveal drivers that usher in a radical change in the travel landscape of the GCC region.

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