In the first three quarters of 2013, there were a record 452,000 visits to the UK from the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar, a 10 per cent increase on the same period in 2012.
Spend by GCC visitors also hit record levels, up 11 per cent year-on-year to just over £1bn.
Visits from Saudi Arabia are showing particularly strong growth, and the country is amongst the top five highest spending markets for Britain, with an average spend per visit of £2,354, compared to a £600 average spend for all visitors to Britain.
VisitBritain predicts that by 2020, the value of visits from Saudi Arabia will increase 181 per cent, the highest projected growth of any of the twenty major emerging markets identified in VisitBritain’s tourism strategy.
In order to build on this growth, VisitBritain is holding its annual GCC travel trade mission in Saudi Arabia for the first time this week, giving UK suppliers the opportunity to meet more than sixty travel agents from across Saudi Arabia to promote British holidays.
Representatives from The Caledonian hotel and The Athenaeum Hotel are amongst the delegates on the mission, which will take place on at the Four Seasons Hotel in Riyadh on 10 February and Le Meridian in Jeddah on 11 February.
It also held an experimental campaign with Qatar Airways in shopping malls across Saudi Arabia last November and December, to ‘inspire consumers with the sights and sounds of Britain’.VisitBritain has invested heavily in tactical marketing across the GCC region as part of its GREAT campaign, and last year it signed a three-year, £2m partnership with Etihad Airways to facilitate joint marketing activities.
“We have ambitious growth targets which we are working tirelessly to achieve from across the GCC region,” said VisitBritain mission leader and marketing director, Joss Croft.
“We’ve already partnered and launched campaigns with the top three airlines - Emirates, Qatar and Etihad - and our trade missions allow us to facilitate relationships with the people who help us sell the best of Britain.”