|JUNE 2000 - The Middle East has been identified as a promising
new market in the budgets of many a PATA NTO and gained added interest
in the wake of the first outbound report produced by PATA in 1999. Reflecting
this new popularity, Pacific Asia destinations were out in strength at
the May 2-5, 2000 Arabian Travel Mart (ATM) in Dubai.
This year's ATM saw many Pacific Asia destinations stepping up their campaigns in the Middle Fast, especially the Gulf Co-operation Council countries. The ASEAN countries were very active as always. Among the new entrants were New Zealand and the Indian state of Kerala, which had its own high-powered stand backed by a high-profile media campaign. Here is an update of what some PATA countries are doing to establish, maintain or boost their market share in the Middle East, all based on interviews conducted during this year's ATM.
Malaysia received about 20,000 visitors from the Middle East in 4999 and is committing roughly eight million ringgit (about US$2.8 million) into the market to attract some 50,000 visitors this year. That is about double the 4999 budget. The Minister even talked of reaching a target of 200,000 visitors in the foreseeable future. The participation of 38 selling companies at the ATM was a major increase over 29 sellers in 1999 and the highest of any Pacific Asia country.
In addition to good flight frequency from throughout the Middle East and visa-free facilities, Malaysia has the advantage of a common Islamic heritage that rais-es the comfort factor for Middle East visitors, especially in terms of dietary issues and dress codes. The country's rich rainforests and beaches are particular draws. Asked why beaches, especially as the Middle East has plenty of its own, Mr. Syed Muhadzir Jamallulil of Tourism Malaysia responded, "Yes, they have beaches in the Middle East, but not beaches with beautiful coconut palms." By 2004, Tourism Malaysia is planning to open promotional offices in Cairo, Jeddah and Dubai.
The Singapore Tourism Board is expanding its "Singapore Live" campaign
throughout the Gulf, this year having broken ground for the first time
in both Kuwait and Iran. The strategy is to appoint travel agents throughout
the Gulf region to handle front-line marketing and promotions, with the
STB providing collateral support. To date, 48 agents have been appointed
throughout the Arabic-speaking region and further expansion is planned
Hong Kong, China
None of the Gulf countries nor Egypt need a visa for Hong Kong. The
HKTA is seeking to build a case for the government to fund an office in
Dubai but is finding that a bit of a hard sell in these days of budgetary
difficulties. The HKTA was the first Pacific Asia NTO to produce a full-fledged
Muslim guide for visitors and printed another 30,000 copies in Arabic for
distribution at the ATM and beyond. HKTA Regional Director Mr. Kevin Welch
said he would like to see Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore and any other
interested Pacific Asia destination exhibiting jointly at future ATMs under
the banner of "Together in Asia."
As always, the major problem is flight connections. The trade is talking to Royal Nepal Airlines to start flights to the Middle East and reduce dependence on the Indian market which has taken a steep dive as a result of the pullout by Indian Airlines. The few Middle East airlines operating to Kathmandu, like Gulf Air and Qatar Airways, are mainly transferring passengers originating in Europe to Nepal. Charter operator Transavia operates weekly charters from Sharjah to Kathmandu but is considering moving to Dubai and boosting the number of charters to two a week from September to April.
Nepal does have a fair presence in the brochures of regional operators like Emirates Holidays, Kanoo Travel and Dnata. Sellers at the ATM said they plan to boost contacts with these wholesalers to see how to better target their database with offers for Nepal, to boost awareness and hence give RNAC more of a reason to increase some flights.
The New Zealand product is well suited for both the Arab and expatriate markets, especially long-staying families looking for good weather, children's activities, safety and a fresh, green environment. Airline support is coming from carriers flying through points in Southeast Asia, such as Malaysia Airlines, which last year took a group of media on a fam trip via Kuala Lumpur.
Much work has to be done culturally, and the New Zealanders are not falling short. Ms. Kaye Martin, General Manager of the Park Regency Auckland, has had some rooms equipped with a ceiling arrow indcating the direction of Mecca, scouting around for availability of halal food and getting some of the hotel's basic collaterals translated into Arabic.
The remaining problem: visas. Australian immigration authorities say they may consider expanding their Electronic Travel Authority to the Gulf countries, after the Olympics. Meanwhile, all applications have to go through the respective consular offices, which can take up to eight days. To help reduce the work load, the Australian Immigration Service has begun allowing wholesalers to apply for visas on behalf of visitors. Dnata Agencies has been given the first green light, but only for UAE nationals. The Australians say they are open to applications for similar rights from other Gulf wholesalers and travel agents.
The British Tourist Authority's new strategy: sports tourism. The Arabs love football and horse-racing, and Britain is renowned for both. For the expatriate market, there is tennis, cricket and rugby The BTA is working with various sports federations in the UK to make it easy for Middle East visitors to obtain tickets to the events. A full-fledged sports division has been set up under the BTA headed by Mr. Adrian Bevan, who was previously head of the BTA's Middle East unit. His first task in his new position is to raise the sports promotions profile there.
Due to its long-standing lead in the Middle East, one thing Britain has done well is translating a lot of its collateral literature into Arabic. The next step: Translating its Internet sites into Arabic, which Mr. Bevan says should be ready by autumn 2000.
That the markets of the Middle East are becoming significant for many destinations within the Pacific Asia region is unquestionable. Apart from the fact that many destinations now have a sizeable volume of traffic from those source markets (see table 1), most are now also identifying individual source countries rather than relying on the all-encompassing categories of "Other Countries" or "Middle East" as collectives.
India, for example, publishes data on ten individual Middle East markets, which collectively account for almost three-quarters of the traffic from that region
These markets therefore have already been identified as having long-term potential and the recognition and tracking mechanisms have (for many) already been initiated. With measurement possible, it is now up to the marketers to devise those tactics that will ensure growth to their respective destinations.
PATA's Strategic Information Centre
Mr. lmtiaz Muqhil
via e-mail at [email protected]
or Mr. John M. Koldowski at [email protected].
||Arrivals Up for PATA Destinations / PATA / May 2000|
|Faciliation of Travel in the Asia-Pacific Region / PATA / February 2000|
|The Changing World of E-Travel / PATA / January 2000|
|The Age of the Silent Invaders / PATA / December 1999|
|Asian Economics Resume Upward Curve...Good News for the Travel and Tourism Industry / PATA / August 1999|
|As Economic Crisis Takes Its Toll, National Tour Organizations (NTOs) Search for New Markets and Marketing Strategies / May 1999|
|Special Report on ASEAN Tourism / PATA / March 1999|
|Study Released Examining the Correlation Between Cultural Tourism and Shopping / Dec 1998|
|Assessing...Trends in Singapore: Implications for Tourist Marketers / May, 1997|