Tourists from Europe to the GCC will increase by 29 per cent from 2018 to 2023. UAE and Saudi Arabia are expected to continue to be the preferred GCC destinations for them.


While tourism has been on a rise in the GCC, 2023 will see a total of 8.3 million EU residents travelling to the region. According to Arabian Travel Market’s research partner, Colliers International, this number would be an additional of 1.9 million travellers when compared to the arrivals in 2018.

Story continues below

According to Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market, “The UAE and Saudi Arabia are expected to continue to be the preferred GCC destinations for European tourists, welcoming a projected 6.15 million and 1.11 million visitors respectively by 2023. Oman will follow with 720,000 visitors, while Bahrain will welcome 310,000 and Kuwait 140,000.”

One of the reasons backing this rise in tourism are new and direct flight routes, more millennial and middle-class travellers and competitive air fares, the research added.

Driving this demand in the UAE throughout 2018, Emirates introduced new flights to London Stansted, Edinburgh, Lyon and Paris; Etihad to Barcelona; fly Dubai to Catania, Thessaloniki, Krakow, Dubrovnik, Zagreb and Helsinki; and Air Arabia to Prague. While in Saudi Arabia, new routes to destinations including Vienna and Malaga were added during the same period.

While part of this growth can be attributed to the UAE and Saudi Arabia’s large expatriate populations, GCC nationals are no strangers to European destinations, its culture and history – as well as its retail and luxury hospitality offerings.

Curtis said: “Saudi Arabia is predicted to retain its position as the largest outbound travel market destination in the GCC, with an additional 1.2 million trips forecasted per year by 2023 – a 70% growth on 2018 trips. Driving this growth will be the rising spending power of both millennials and females in the Kingdom.”