Kuwait aims to boost leisure tourism

12 Feb 2012

Kuwait’s five-year tourism plan aimed at diversifying its predominantly business focused visitor base

Arabian Travel Market, the leading travel exhibition in the Middle East, has seen soaring interest ahead of this year’s event, as visitors remained unfazed by the political turmoil which has gripped much of the region.

Kuwait remains a predominantly business destination. The government is aiming to double its International Airport capacity to 14 million passengers a year as it looks to improve the country’s tourism infrastructure.

In 2008 five-star hotels operated by international hotel chains dominated the Gulf state’s hotel market but since then investors have been opening up lower- priced hotels and extended-stay properties.

“Kuwait launched a 5-year plan for tourism last year which aims to attract more leisure tourists. This is part of Kuwait’s plan to develop the country as a commercial and financial centre alongside tourism,” explained Mark Walsh, Group Exhibition Director, Reed Travel Exhibitions.

“One area that Kuwait could look to develop as part of this plan is the MICE sector while also setting up a programme of leisure activities for business guests during their time in the country,” added Walsh.

According to Euromonitor International there were only 554,000 arrivals to Kuwait in 2010, the majority of whom traveled for business purposes. Under the five-year plan, Kuwait is aiming to boost this number to one million.

The Middle East reported mixed results in three key occupancy performance measurements in November 2011 due to the Arab Spring, according to industry consultants STR Global, although performances in individual countries differed greatly.

Occupancy fell by 4.3% to 65.8%, revenue per available room (RevPar) eased by 1% to US$121.28, while average daily rates increased 3.5% to US$184.24.
“The political upheaval over the last 12 months has had differing impacts on travel across the region. While there is uncertainty in North Africa and the Levant the oil exporting Gulf states are witnessing greater stability,” commented Walsh.

“Nonetheless, governments across the region continue to plough billions of dollars into tourism infrastructure while leading Gulf carriers such as Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways expand aggressively,” Walsh added.
Visitor registrations for the four-day Arabian Travel Market show, which opens on 30 April 2012, are already up 132% from the same time last year, at nearly 2,000 visitors.

The number of visitors from Kuwait who have already registered is up 118% while the number of visitors who are interested in buying products and services from there has risen by 105%.

European registrations for the event are up 94% so far.

The number of tourists visiting the Middle East is expected to grow by up to 5% this year following an 8% decline in 2011, according to a recent report by the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

There were an estimated 5 million fewer international tourist arrivals last year, down to 55 million, due to the turmoil in some of the region’s countries, UNWTO said.

Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai and approaching its nineteenth year, the show has grown to become the largest showcase of its kind in the region and one of the biggest in the world.

Last year 2,232 exhibitors covering nearly 20,000 square metres, attracted more than 21,000 attendees.

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