x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Arabian Travel Market diary: Gulf tourism in the ascendancy

A seemingly unstoppable wave of hotel building, plane buying and route planning is moving the region’s tourism industry from the periphery of global travel to its core.

Gulf tourism is in holiday mode. Hours before the official opening of the Arabian Travel Market yesterday morning, delegates from around the world were already queuing up to register at Dubai’s teeming convention centre. Business attire competed with national costumes from around the globe.

Within the exhibition halls, the region’s big three airlines of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha flaunted their increasingly luxurious business and first class cabins with other exhibitors taking cheeky turns in the comfy leather recliners before trade visitors were allowed in to sneak a peek.

A seemingly unstoppable wave of hotel building, plane buying and route planning is moving the region’s tourism industry from the periphery of global travel to its core.

The signs of that tipping point have been numerous in recent weeks. The exponential growth of Emirates Airline has helped Dubai overtake Heathrow as the world’s busiest airport by international travel.

Etihad Airways looks poised to enter a new phase of equity alliance building, bringing more global travellers to the capital. Doha too has a brand new US$17 billion airport to stake its own claim.

At the same time the established hubs and carriers of Europe and elsewhere are feeling increasingly squeezed. Lufthansa’s outgoing boss highlighted in March the competitive threat posed by the rise of Gulf carriers. The chief of Ethiopian Airlines put it in even blunter terms, warning the Gulfies could eat African carriers for their lunch. Even Heathrow Airport is feeling a bit put upon – highlighting the growth of Dubai as one of the most compelling reasons to garner support for a third runway.

All of that seems a long way from the party atmosphere of today’s Arabian Travel Market.

It feels like the stars are in alignment over the region’s travel industry this year.

But sooner or later the lobbies threatened by that feeling of success will try to spoil the party.

scronin@thenational.ae

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