Travellers from Europe are set to become a key market to support post-Covid recovery for Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. With many flight options and a varied tourism product, the GCC has many attractive features for European travellers.

GCC countries are an attractive destination for European travellers. In 2019, 11.8 million tourists travelled from Europe to GCC countries. Travel from Europe to GCC countries has been forecast by GlobalData to grow at a continuous annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17.5% from 2021 to 2024 to a high of 13.3 million by 2024, far exceeding pre-Covid highs. Given the high level of growth, European arrivals will be a key driver of the GCC’s tourism recovery from Covid-19. The pandemic caused a 67% year-over-year (YoY) decrease in arrivals from Europe in 2020 to a low of 3.9 million.

In 2020, arrivals from Europe accounted for 19.2% of all arrivals into GCC countries, highlighting the importance of European travellers. Europe was the fastest-growing source market pre-Covid and is set for even stronger growth post-Covid. Travellers are becoming keener to travel as restrictions continue to ease, case rates remain stable and vaccination rates rise. With numerous flight options and a strong tourism product on offer across GCC member states, tourism recovery looks bright and European travellers will play a vital role in member countries’ recovery.

UK travellers are important for GCC recovery

GlobalData’s latest forecasts show that UK trips to GCC countries are set to experience the second-largest growth in arrivals amongst European countries. UK traveller arrivals into GCC member countries are anticipated to achieve a CAGR of 21.7% between 2021 and 2024 reaching 3 million arrivals by 2024.

UK travellers are attracted to GCC countries due to the diverse tourism proposition. With stunning beaches, sprawling cities and adventure activities, there is plenty to entice UK travellers. The UAE especially has become a hot destination for UK travellers mainly driven by the opulence and status of visiting Dubai. The lavish experience and wealth of luxury hotels have and will continue to drive arrivals. The Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Mall and Expo 2020 continue to attract travellers.

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A varied tourism product is beneficial

The mixed tourism product available across member countries bodes well with European holidaymakers, especially those seeking winter sun.

Countries across the GCC have plenty to entice Europeans. A strong beach has shone a positive light on the region. Similarly, the cultural history allows for a nice mix of activities, all popular with European travellers. Even though city breaks are likely to be less popular during the pandemic recovery phase, the abundance of activities outside of the city and on the beach will see the GCC region regain its popularity quicker than those only offering a city break experience.