Sunday 03 October 2010

The number of tourists coming to the UK from the Gulf Region has jumped, with some 494,000 people from the region making trips to the UK in 2009, up nine per cent on the year before, according to a new report from VisitBritain.

Tourists from Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates say they are particularly attracted to the UK by the opportunity to shop for fashion and luxury goods not available at home - and the chance to watch one of Britain’s increasingly world famous Premier League football clubs.

Gulf tourism makes an important contribution to the UK economy. The average amount that visitors from the region spent in 2009 while in this country was £1,733 per person - more than three times as much as the average tourist who spent just £554.

The region was the source of 1.7 per cent of visitors to the UK in 2009 but they splashed out £856 million, 5.2 per cent of what all foreign tourists spent here.

Key reasons for the surge in Gulf Region visits to Britain include the UK’s growing reputation as a safe, well-organised country with polite, approachable people and relatively low levels of theft or fraud. Britain’s temperate climate is seen as particularly desirable for those wishing to escape searing summer temperatures which average 45 degrees Celcius in Saudi Arabia, for example.

The new report comes as the popularity of the UK with Gulf Region investors has climbed. Qatar Holdings, the state-owned investment fund, owns the prestigious Harrods department store. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, a member of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, is currently spending money heavily to transform Manchester City FC into a team that can finally compete with its neighbour Manchester United for the Premiership crown. The Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company recently bought the ExCeL exhibition centre in London.

Gulf Region visitors currently have limited knowledge of Britain outside London but they find the idea of visiting other parts of the country ‘’very appealing.’’

Although Gulf Region tourists believe London is relatively expensive compared to other European destinations the cost tends to be outweighed by the cachet of being able to say they visited London and experienced Britain’s culture and heritage. Another point in Britain’s favour is that it is easy for Gulf Region tourists to communicate once they get here, since most are familiar with the English language.

When would-be Gulf Region tourists were asked where they would like to visit in the next three years, only Malaysia had a slight edge over Britain as a destination because of its rich scenic beauty. Britain’s closest rivals are, in order of precedence, France, Thailand, Singapore and the USA.

Other factors that made Gulf Region visitors choose Britain included the availability of plenty of activities for the family and the clean environment.

The increase in tourist visits to the UK comes after a sustained push by VisitBritain to sell the UK as a destination to the region. For example, in association with Tourism Ireland, it launched a major business-to-business travel trade event, Destination Britain & Ireland (Debi), in Dubai in May 2010. It was the biggest trade event of its kind in the Asia Pacific, Gulf Region, and Africa region with more than 200 key companies and travel industry specialists attending the three-day event.

Patricia Yates, Director of Strategy and Communications, VisitBritain said: ‘’The number of visitors coming to the UK from the Gulf Region has jumped significantly in the past year, partly thanks to a sustained push by VisitBritain to sell the UK as a travel destination. It is very good news that travellers from the region are increasingly attracted to our reputation as a safe, welcoming and friendly country with lots of sights, activities, adventures and entertainment to enjoy.’’

For more information contact:

VisitBritain Media Team

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