Indian tourists’ greater spending potential, surge in Gen X travelers set to buoy tourism

Economy Middle East speaks to Danielle Curtis, Arabian Travel Market (ATM) exhibition director at RX Global, on the importance of India’s outbound tourism for the Middle East region. Danielle Curtis also sheds light on the changing trends in the travel industry, the importance of travel tech and the transforming luxury travel market.

This year’s edition of the Arabian Travel Market will focus on India’s outbound tourism potential. What are the factors driving India’s tourism growth and how will the Middle East as a region benefit?

India’s burgeoning outbound tourism is driven by rising disposable incomes and a growing middle class, particularly among the youth who view travel as integral to personal development.

The Middle East is poised to benefit significantly from this surge in Indian tourists. The region shares close cultural ties with India, including a shared history and mutual appreciation for cuisine, music and art, making it a popular destination. Moreover, the substantial Indian expatriate community in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries acts as a conduit. It promotes tourism through familial and social networks.

This symbiotic relationship fosters economic growth through increased tourism revenue and reinforces cultural and economic ties between the regions. The Middle East’s proximity to India, combined with its blend of tradition and modernity, further enhances its allure as a favored destination for Indian travelers. 

Traveltech has witnessed disruptive innovations in recent years. What new tech ideas will emerge this year? How will it impact travel experiences and the industry’s growth?

Over 100 leading travel technology companies will exhibit at Arabian Travel Market 2024, returning to the Dubai World Trade Center. This year’s event will witness the Travel Tech section expanding by 56 percent, with a 33 percent increase in exhibitors.  This reflects an unprecedented surge in interest from firms eager to showcase their latest innovations to a global audience.

Sponsored by Sabre, the Future Stage, formerly known as the Travel Tech Stage, will serve as a platform for over a hundred expert speakers from the global travel and tourism industry. They will discuss the latest trends and showcase cutting-edge innovations aimed at enhancing efficiency and profitability within the sector. Delegates will explore how advanced tech can drive improvements across various segments, with a particular focus on AI’s impact on the travel industry.

Danielle Curtis

ATM is where the travel and tourism marketplace converges for networking and keeping pace with the latest trends in the industry. What new features can attendees look forward to this year?

Aligning with its central theme of Transforming Travel Through Entrepreneurship, ATM introduces a new summit focused on entrepreneurship in the travel sector, highlighting its regional economic significance. The agenda also features the inaugural Markets Insight Summit. This summit uncovers investment opportunities within tourism, strategies for attracting investment, and new capital channels.

Complementing these sessions, the Young Entrepreneurs event returns. It targets university students and recent graduates to enhance their understanding of career development opportunities within the travel industry. Moreover, it facilitates networking with the next wave of professionals.

A notable addition to ATM 2024 is the inaugural Saudi Village, spotlighting the burgeoning Saudi travel market poised to attract 30 million overnight visitors this year. The Saudi exhibition will showcase leading entities such as SAUDIA, flynas, NEOM, Dur Hospitality, AMSA Hospitality and the Royal Commission for AlUla. Notably, the presence of Saudi exhibitors at the show has surged by nearly 50 percent this year.

The event will also see the return of the International Congress and Convention Association, and the Global Business Travel Association. It offers the latest in business travel and events content, research and education.

Luxury travel also seems to be on the rise. How far will service providers go in delivering the ultimate in luxurious travel experiences?

The Middle East’s luxury travel market is undergoing a significant shift, blending heritage, innovation and sustainability with its opulent offerings.

Recent findings from YouGov’s Global Travel & Tourism Whitepaper 2023 reveal a growing preference among high-spending travelers for experiences that prioritize local communities and ecosystems. In the UAE, over 61 percent of residents are willing to invest more in eco-friendly options. Therefore, this marks a departure from luxury’s traditional focus on indulgence.

ATM 2024 will also feature a diverse range of luxury travel exhibitors. This includes industry leaders like Kerzner International’s Atlantis Resorts, One & Only Resorts, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Shangri-La Group, Jumeirah International LLC, Savoy, and others, alongside Avalon Luxury Yachts, representing the Middle East and beyond.

This year’s event highlights luxury travel as a sub-theme, emphasizing eco-consciousness, cultural preservation, and technological advancement alongside traditional luxury. This reflects the industry’s recognition that true luxury integrates indulgence with ethical considerations, setting a new standard for global travel.

Innovation, particularly in virtual and augmented reality, is reshaping the luxury travel experience. These technologies offer immersive previews of destinations. Meanwhile, artificial intelligence and big data personalize travel experiences to cater to the demands of high-net-worth individuals.

Gen X travelers are also on the radar for increased travel spend. What is driving this growth and which demographic is likely to emerge as the travel and tourism industry’s new favorite?

Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980, is driving the surge in outbound travel from the GCC. This is notably impacting the UAE and Saudi Arabia markets.

With senior roles come high earning potential and disposable income. This empowers many in this group, including successful entrepreneurs, to frequently travel. While attention often focuses on Millennial and Gen Z travelers, it’s logical for Gen X to lead in GCC’s outbound travel, particularly considering the region’s expatriate senior management demographic.

This generation prioritizes achieving a sustainable work-life balance, leading to increased leisure time spent with family or blending business with leisure, thereby boosting the “bleisure” travel segment.

Research Nester’s projections underscore Gen X’s substantial financial contribution to travel. By 2028, they are expected to represent $11.1 billion, or 41 percent of Saudi Arabia’s total outbound market value of $27 billion, and $18.2 billion, or 60 percent of the UAE’s market value of $30.5 billion. As Gen X ages and moves toward retirement, Millennials will naturally begin to dominate the outbound market share in the coming decade.

Read: Andrew Spearman, general manager of Six Senses Zighy Bay, on sustainability and community support

About Danielle Curtis

Danielle Curtis is the Arabian Travel Market exhibition director at RX Global. With over 15 years of experience in the hospitality sector, Danielle Curtis is a proactive and results-driven professional. She has held the exhibition director Middle East position at RX Global for almost 6 years now.

Before joining RX Global, Danielle Curtis held the event manager position at dmg events Middle East and Asia.

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