Experiential tourism, the main theme of Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2017, is set to be one of the major tourism drivers in the UAE this year and beyond, according to a report from Colliers International.

The UAE Hospitality Market report comes hard on the heels of ATM’s 2017 roadshow series, which returns to Dubai this month (9th February), as the Reed Travel Exhibitions’ team hosts the UAE leg of its GCC tour.

Travellers, more than ever before, have an array of choices available to them and, as such, are looking away from the more traditional beach and sight-seeing holidays.

The total contribution of travel & tourism to the UAE GDP was AED133.8 billion (8.7% of GDP) in 2015. This was forecast to rise by 4.4% in 2016, and by a further 5.4% per annum to over AED236 billion (11.2% of GDP) in 2026, with experiential tourism credited as a key area of growth.

culture-arabic-tent“Travellers, more than ever before, have an array of choices available to them and, as such, are looking away from the more traditional beach and sight-seeing holidays. Some are soaking up culture and custom, while others, especially regional visitors more familiar with Arabic culture, are clearly opting for thrill-seeking adventures and experiences. That message is coming through loud and clear from many of the travel professionals attending Arabian Travel Market this year,” said Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director, ATM.

To cope with the projected demand through to 2020 and beyond, hotel supply in Dubai increased by 6,700 keys in 2016, with occupancy rates marginally up to 78%, and the average length of stay remaining consistent with 2015 at 3.6 nights.

culture-camelsThe report from Colliers said: “It is expected that the length of stay will further grow as the city increases its theme parks and entertainment offerings. A greater family appeal is expected to drive overall spending as well.”

IMG Worlds of Adventure and Dubai Parks and Resorts, which opened last year in Dubai, both have ambitions to draw in millions of visitors in their first year of operations, with IMG expecting to attract 4.5 million people and Dubai Parks and Resorts predicting 6.7 million ticketed visitors.

Abu Dhabi, which is set to welcome the $1 billion Warner Bros. theme park at Yas Island in 2018, also saw a drop in average rate, although Abu Dhabi City achieved 74% occupancy in 2016. “There is a push by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority to market the emirate as a destination very suitable for leisure vacationing, for both families and couples,” said the Colliers International report.

According to the latest data from STR, the UAE currently has 132,803 hotels, with a further 60,397 rooms in the pipeline, representing growth of 45.5%.

culture-desert-and-falconATM – considered by many industry professionals as a barometer for the Middle East and North Africa tourism sector, witnessed a year-on-year visitor attendance increase of 9% to over 28,500 in 2016, with 2,785 exhibiting companies, signing business deals worth more than US$ 2.5 billion over four days.

The half-day roadshow at Dubai World Trade Centre will see ATM representatives share the latest updates on this year’s line-up of specialist events and seminar series’, and invite participating industry players to discuss how to capitalise on market and PR opportunities in the build up to and during ATM.

Press added: “The successful annual roadshow provides an excellent opportunity for exhibitors in key markets to take part in interactive open forum sessions and receive the very latest news and information on ATM developments, initiatives and marketing opportunities, allowing them to maximise their participation in the region’s largest tourism, travel and hospitality event.”