New data put out by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the global forum for the travel and tourism industry, reveals that the industry contributes 10.4 percent to global GDP and was responsible for the creation of one in five new jobs over the last five years. The industry currently employs around 300 million people, roughly one in 10 jobs worldwide and this number is set to increase as an additional 100 million sector-dependent jobs are set to be created by 2028.
Figures from the WTTC show that international tourist arrivals rose by 6 percent to 1.4 billion in 2018. Cities were a major draw for international travelers, with 45 percent of those crossing borders in 2018 for tourism purposes visiting cities. Furthermore, international arrivals to the 300 largest city travel destinations accounted for over half a billion trips last year. Last year, over 64 million tourist arrivals were reported to the Middle East region, a jump of 10 percent from a year earlier.
Demographic changes, customers’ evolving needs and behaviors, and new technologies will profoundly transform tourism over the coming decades. A newly released report by the global consultancy firm, Oliver Wyman titled, ‘The Experience Revolution’ highlights the major global trends that will continue to shape the future of tourism across the globe, and which will have a ripple effect across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The report outlines ways industry stakeholders can leverage these trends and seize the new opportunities to meet the growing demands of today and tomorrow’s global traveler.
The following are some of the trends set to shape tourism in the future:
Rise of the Asian middle class: The most significant increase in demand for tourism will come from Asia: of the more than 2.4 billion people who are projected to join the global middle class from 2015 to 2030, around 90 percent will be Asian. By 2030, it is predicted that 30 percent of international travelers will be Asian.
Digitalization: With the new generation of tech-savvy travelers, emergence of new technologies and the rise of a connected generation of travelers, digitalization has become even more crucial.
Sharing economy: The past few years have witnessed an increase in online travel transactions. In 2015, around 30 percent of the market value of the top 30 digital companies came from collaborative platforms like Airbnb, Uber, or HomeAway. As such stakeholders need to adapt and further leverage programs that offer such unique options for travelers.
Responsible tourism: With a scarcity of resources on the rise, an increased pace of climate change, and the rapid extinction of many species, overpopulation and the impact of human activities on the planet is becoming a concern. With the number of tourists only set to increase, stakeholders have adopted various strategies to combat irresponsible tourism such as limiting the number of visitors, limiting access to sites under certain condition. In addition, many travel and hotel companies have also committed to reducing wastage and developing technologies to support sustainability.
Solo travel: Some 50 percent of all those who travel on holiday, go solo at least once a year, and that trend is expected to grow, driven mainly by women travelers and adventure seekers. According to Hostelworld, the world’s leading hostel-focused online booking platform, solo travel bookings increased by 42 percent between 2015 and 2017. During the same period, solo bookings by women grew 45 percent against 40 percent for men.
Personalization: Today’s travelers value tailor-made experiences based on personal preferences and past behaviors. According to one study, 64 percent of consumers said a personalized customer service was more important than speed of service, and 94 percent of consumers would be more likely to do business with travel and leisure companies if they offered personalized experiences.
Experience over product: One of the most significant shifts among tourists has been the movement away from product towards experience paradigm. Travelers are increasingly looking for authentic, cultural, one-of-a-kind experiences.
While the UAE has put the Gulf region on the map for global tourism, the ongoing broad region of development in other countries, notably Saudi Arabia, will bring a range of innovation and experience into the market. Trends such as digitalization and responsible tourism are unique state-of-the-art concepts, transforming the entire hospitality industry globally and regionally. Phenomena such as the ‘Internet of Things’ will enable the potential of the region and drive economic growth for local governments to support these developments in the years to come.