Family Fortunes - How Gulf destinations can boost their appeal to the lucrative family tourism market

Gemma Greenwood

The global family tourism market was valued at US$140 billion in 2013 and is expected to be worth $180 billion by 2018, the latest Thomson Reuters data has revealed.

An annual growth rate of 4.79 per cent is anticipated for this lucrative travel market until at least 2020, outpacing overall international growth of 3.8 per cent per annum.What’s more, family tourism’s contribution to the Islamic economy is significant, according to a recent Dubai Chamber of Commerce (DCCI) and Industry report, based on the Thomson Reuters data.

Saudi Arabia is the GCC’s top source market, with family travel accounting for $17.1 billion in spending in 2012, followed by the UAE and Kuwait, who spent $10.1 billion and $7.4 billion respectively. However, the Middle East’s most valuable family travel market is Iran, spending $18.2 billion in 2012, the DCCI report revealed.

It is for these compelling reasons that Arabian Travel Market organiser, Reed Exhibitions, has announced family travel as its 2015 theme. The show’s seminar programme will therefore feature three sessions designed to explore the potential of the family travel market in depth, one of which will bring together a panel of industry professionals to discuss what steps Gulf destinations need to do to boost their appeal to this lucrative segment. A stellar line-up of panellists including Destination Management Companies, leisure facility managers, hospitality firms, destination marketing gurus, event organisers and professional childcare consultants will give their views on how cities such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha can up their game.

From a macro perspective, the Gulf destinations must create an offering diverse enough to attract repeat business. Theme parks and a wide range of adventure-focused activities will prove a draw card and more of these crowd-pleasers are required to achieve mass appeal, but tourism authorities must also look to new global trends that are increasingly influencing the decision-making process. For example, demand for experiential family travel is on the rise, with parents keen to get their kids globetrotting to immerse themselves in new cultures. In this respect, cultural travel experiences, which replace cookie-cutter resort holidays, will need to be factored in as part of the leisure travel industry’s evolution.

From a micro perspective, the Gulf’s forte is good quality family-friendly resorts, but do they provide the childcare services that consumers are looking for and of the highest standards? Pricing and packaging is another consideration, with the need to offer all-inclusive holidays becoming increasingly important given families are looking for value-for-money, particularly in the Gulf where in-hotel F&B is notoriously expensive.

The travel and hospitality industry must also become more creative if it is to attract families during off-peak seasons and this is where more fluid sales and marketing strategies come into play. These are just some of the many considerations destinations Gulf-wide must incorporate into their long-term visions if they are to attract the ambitious tourism numbers they are targeting.

The family travel market is complicated and the industry must cater to a wide range of requirements, particularly given the number of diverse source markets for this lucrative business. With today’s emerging markets, most notably the BRIC nations, dominating tourism growth in general, the Gulf region, which is well connected to all of them thanks to its expansionist legacy carriers, must get robust strategies in place now to ensure they get their fair share of family travellers.

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