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An eye on global trends
December 2016 2285

Industry optimism at the recently concluded World Travel Market London 2016 was high with deals worth more than £2.5 billion ($3 billion) agreed and signed.

Furthermore, more than two thirds of industry respondents say travel and tourism will grow in 2017, including 15 per cent believing there will be a significant increase in the global travel and tourism industry. A further 53 per cent see the industry increasing next year. Almost seven out ten expect their business to increase bookings next year, including more than a fifth that feel business will significantly increase.

The WTM Global Trends Report 2016, in association with Euromonitor International, reports that the global economic outlook looks uncertain, with most developed economies showing sluggish growth and emerging economies struggling to maintain higher advances. Terrorism threats, the US Presidential elections and the aftermath of Brexit are the leading causes of uncertainty across the globe and are impacting economic growth and stability.

Nonetheless, tourism arrivals are extremely resilient with 2016 predicted to be another record year for inbound trips, with 2015 seeing more than 1.2 billion worldwide. Travel product sales were $2.1 trillion in 2015 and are expected to top $2.5 trillion by 2020, boosted by the adoption of new technology and diverse business models.

Dubai Parks & Resorts won a prestigious World Travel Market 2016 World Travel Leaders Award, which was collected by Douglas Trueblood, director of marketing and Jaki Ellenby, VP Marketing, and presented by the TTN team

Online and mobile travel continues to expand across the globe, helped by growing consumer confidence in emerging regions for mobile payments. However, the majority of mobile travel purchases are stealing share from other online methods such as PCs, offline is still predicted to have higher global value than online in 2020, as said in the WTM Global Trends Report 2016.

Convenience is king with consumers choosing bag-free, hassle-free travel and ‘clicks and mortar’ agencies that blend the best of the online and offline worlds. With global online value sales for intermediaries set to overtake offline sales, traditional retailers need to evolve so as not to lose out, advised the report.

The Middle East continues to see security issues and instability impacting tourism, but also strong arrivals for the UAE and Saudi Arabia in 2015. Airlines showed the highest growth of all categories, with the low cost of fuel benefiting travel but economic growth is stagnating for some key oil-producing nations. Mobile travel sales to residents are booming, with Saudi Arabia seeing 68 per cent growth in 2015 as confidence in the payment mode expands.

Tourism in certain Middle Eastern countries continues to face challenging times, with the political situation in the region remaining unstable. National tourist boards are looking to history to find attractions for visitors, with the development and promotion of hiking trails proving a surprising success. Key trails include the Nativity Path in Palestine, Abraham’s Path from Turkey to Egypt, the Jordan trail and Lebanon’s mountain trail.

A key benefit for rural communities is the creation of tourism in areas that have never seen visitors, and is particularly beneficial for women involved in providing home stays. While security can be a concern, local communities that are invested in the growth of tourism are ensuring a safe and welcoming environment for tourists.

Some of the trails go across country borders, offering visitors a more varied trip, as well as fostering stronger relationships between neighbouring tourism organisations. Tourism infrastructure is minimal in many places along these routes, which means that home stays are often the only lodging opportunity.

The visitors to these trails are mixed; some visiting for religious reasons, some visiting family and friends in the region and others for a more personal journey. Religious tourism has proved to be relatively constant and less affected by security concerns. Part of the hardship involved in hiking ties in with religious pilgrimages.

The future could see the development of different lodging opportunities such as luxury lodges and luxury camping, as well as the continued use of home stays. A rise in hiking pilgrimages has also been seen in Europe, with traditional routes such as the Camino now being popular with a variety of religious and secular pilgrims.

The majority of current hikers have a connection to the region through family or diaspora links, but this is likely to broaden as facilities and information improve.

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