Dubai has already recorded a 7.5% increase in tourists (11.58million) in the first 9 months of 2017. If this trend continues, Dubai will achieve its target of 20million tourists by 2020. India, Saudi, UK and China are the top countries contributing to this inbound tourism. Traditionally, last quarter with cooler climate sees an increase in tourist numbers. The type of travelers and activities have broadened with more mid-segment travelers visiting UAE. This change is brought on by increase in connectivity through budget carriers as well as a wide selection of mid-range accommodation options. The scope for entertainment is also more diverse – combining luxury (Dubai Opera), adventure (water sports) and entertainment destinations (Global Village, Dubai Resorts and Parks, IMG). Launch of Louvre AbuDhabi marks UAE’s entry into the global art scene as well as adding another aspect to tourism.
PwC has listed 5 mega trends that are guiding the future of tourism in MENA. With 40% of the population below the age of 25, the region must move away from the traditional marketing concepts and embrace the new media world. The shift in global economic power from west to east will also bring in tourists with diverse set of interests. Moving away from the luxury/leisure travelers from developed economies, Middle East – especially UAE/Dubai will need to cater to travelers from the emerging economies. Tourism related activities are very much concentrated around main cities which in turn demands a high level of urban infrastructure planning, that’s sustainable. More so, because of the climate change and resource scarcity like water. But the region, especially GCC/UAE is in the forefront in technology development and sustainable tourism is a top agenda. Dubai has established Dubai Sustainable Tourism council in partnership with DEWA and Dubai Municipality among others to build a sustainable ecosystem around tourism. The initiatives are built around 3 pillars – Environment, Economy and Social.
Industry leaders have opined about the modern state of tourism like the potential impact of VR in the short and long term (the latter perhaps cutting into the actual travel itself). There is increasing demand for value from customers forcing travel companies to operate with less profit. More travelers are relying on ‘local expert’ advice, made possible with various apps and bots that can easily curate information according to individual preferences.
As with tourism, Airline industry is also adopting technology for enhanced travel experience. Whether it’s AI powered customer interface or creating a seamless experience for travelers from home to destination. With less reliance on travel agents (OTAs or others) and hotel chains by travelers, Airlines need to partner with a wider set of partners like restaurants, leisure and entertainment providers though collaborative APIs. UAE Airline Industry (Emirates, Etihad) is leading in the technological advancement – be it on-board or on-ground.