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Orlando First to Surpass 70 Million Annual Visitors

A New Record for U.S. Travel: Orlando First to Surpass 70 Million Annual Visitors
– Solidifies Rank as America’s Most-Visited Destination –

ORLANDO, Fla. – Tourism officials announced today a historic milestone in the travel industry as Orlando became the first U.S. destination to surpass 70 million annual visitors. In 2017, 72 million visitors traveled to Orlando, an increase of more than 5 percent over the prior year, once again making it America’s most-visited destination.

Visit Orlando, the region’s official destination tourism and marketing organization, shared the number today at a special gathering of more than 1,000 tourism and community leaders.

“Our record-breaking year was achieved despite international headwinds and the statewide effects of Hurricane Irma,” said Visit Orlando President and CEO George Aguel. “In 2017, our destination launched new consumer experiences on a significant scale and our marketing efforts leveraged increasing consumer confidence in the United States. We also continued our focus on communicating the unique emotional connection visitors have with Orlando.”

“Orlando’s record-setting visitation affirms the city as a leader in the U.S. travel industry,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “The success in Orlando is great, not just for this iconic destination, but for travel as a whole. As the U.S. overall looks to regain its share of the global travel market, this new milestone in Orlando is a welcome reminder of the resiliency of this industry.”

Orlando reached a host of new milestones in 2017 including:

  • Record number of U.S. visitors
  • Record convention attendance: The Orange County Convention Center welcomed an unprecedented 1.53 million attendees (+5.0 percent).
  • Record airline arrivals: Orlando International Airport became the busiest airport in Florida, with 44.6 million passengers (+6.4 percent).

In addition to the openings of new attractions, resorts and dining venues, Orlando’s visitation benefited from new and adjusted destination marketing strategies from Visit Orlando.

  • Domestically, Visit Orlando recognized the potential of the country’s growing positive economic indicators and increased marketing initiatives focused on U.S. audiences, with a special emphasis in the important Northeast region. Domestic visitation for 2017 grew to an all-time record total of 65.86 million.
  • Internationally, with several key markets facing uncertainties, Visit Orlando maintained its extensive marketing, brand and publicity programs to retain Orlando’s leading position as a top international destination, with 6.15 million visitors.
  • Swiftly addressing potential concerns after Hurricane Irma struck in September, Visit Orlando quickly launched initiatives to demonstrate how Orlando tourism areas rebounded. This was accomplished through social media and publicity campaigns that used authentic visuals of real guests, in real-time, enjoying and commenting on the status of the destination.

Hotels to spend AED2.45 million by 2022

The average 300-room hotel in Dubai will be faced with a bill for AED2.45 million overcoming five years, as bandwidth capability is multiplied to meet rising guest demand as per figures calculated by Colliers International.

The data further revealed that on average guest now connecting up to three separate devices to a hotel’s WiFi during their stay, increasing overall strain on existing bandwidth within each property. Adding to this pressure, the data further reveals that hotels failing to maintain current standards will jeopardise guest loyalty, as 68% of guests reveal they would not return to a hotel with poor internet access, research found.

Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director, ATM, said: “To maintain current connection speed and quality each hotel must make multi-million dirham investments in new technology, systems and capabilities. Bandwidth investment is a key trend predicted to transform the regional hospitality industry over the next five years.”

Looking to the future, the introduction of more chatbots across hotels to deal with common guest queries before, during and after booking is expected, with Colliers predicting as much as 79% of all B2C interactions will be performed by these bots within Middle Eastern hotels by 2020.

Another key development is the piloting of Bluetooth beacons across hotel lobbies and public spaces, allowing for on demand flash marketing to be sent via hotel apps.

In addition, virtual payment systems are tipped to be highly influential with fintech developments such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay eliminating the number of cash payments. Colliers predicts half of hotel payments will be made using either mobile or virtual payment platforms by 2021.

Press added: “Much of the innovation we have seen across the travel industry is focused on easing the passenger journey, with flexibility, personalisation and authenticity all key to enhancing a guest’s overall trip and we see that reflected throughout this new research.”

UAE and KSA continue to lead GCC luxury hospitality market

The UAE will continue to lead the GCC’s luxury hospitality segment to 2022, with 73% of existing luxury hotel stock and 61% of the region’s current luxury pipeline located in the country, according to research data for the forthcoming Arabian Travel Market 2018.

The research demonstrates that luxury properties have increased three-fold in the GCC in just 10 years, with 95% of these properties operated by international management brands.

Despite taking the lead position, the UAE will face strong competition from Saudi Arabia, which is expected to witness significant increase in luxury hotel supply to 2022, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 18% from 2018 onwards. Across the rest of the GCC, this figure stands at 10% in the UAE, 11% in Oman and Kuwait, and 9% in Bahrain.

Historically, Saudi Arabia dominates CAGR trends, with luxury property development from 2013 – 2017 accounting for 11% of the Kingdom’s growth in supply, compared to 8% in the UAE, 7% in Kuwait, 6% in Oman and 5% in Bahrain.

In 2017, the UAE topped the table, with 35% of the year’s pipeline made up of luxury projects; most concentrated in Dubai. This compares to 14% of projects in Saudi Arabia, 20% in Kuwait, 19% in Bahrain and 11% in Oman.

Today, highlights of the GCC’s luxury hotel stock of 69,396 rooms include St. Regis; Palazzo Versace; Bulgari; Armani and Raffles.

Tourism from China to GCC markets to grow by 2021

Recent statistics released by Colliers International reported that Chinese arrivals to the GCC will increase 21% to 2021, rising to 2.5 million visitors annually. The data further predicts that Saudi Arabia will experience the highest proportionate increase in arrivals from China, up 35% on 2016 figures. The UAE will follow at 20%, with Oman at 12% and Bahrain and Kuwait at seven percent respectively.

GCC countries currently attract 1.9% of China’s total outbound market, up from 1.3% in 2012, however positive trends are expected to continue as 154 million Chinese tourists prepare to go abroad in 2018 and a predicted 244 million follow in 2022.

Keen to capitalize on this growing number, figures from ATM 2017 show that number of delegates, exhibitors, and attendees interested in doing business with China had increased 63% on the previous year, with the number of delegates arriving from China, up 28%.

Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director, ATM, said: “The outbound Chinese market represents a vast, untapped pool of affluent and adventurous travellers and the GCC has been a destination of choice for years. Owing to its many business opportunities and a new generation of leisure attractions, figures show the GCC is poised to further capitalize on these trends over coming years.”

The Colliers data follows four years of steady growth in Chinese arrivals to the GCC, spurred by the business, leisure, and religious tourism sectors. Further supporting this drive, over recent years, regional brands including airlines, hotels, and tourism bodies have opened representative offices across China.

Every year, almost 15,000 Chinese Muslims visit the two Holy Cities, and that number will increase as China’s Muslim population grows to account for 2.1% of the total population by 2030. Strengthening these ties, in 2017 Saudi Arabia loaned Arab artifacts from the pre-historic, pre-Islamic and Islamic periods to Chinese museums, further enhancing Chinese awareness of Arab culture.

GCC visitors on an increase to UK in 2016

Visitors to the UK from KSA, UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain totaled 659,466 in 2016, an increase of 6.6%, amounting to almost 5,000 more visitors than the previous year. This data was released by Arabian Travel Market (ATM) which is scheduled to be held at Dubai World Trade Centre from 22-25 April 2018.

The UK welcomed over 350,000 visitors from the UAE; more than 150,000 from KSA; over 100,000 from Kuwait and just under 50,000 from Bahrain, which included nationals as well as expatriate residents.

Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director, ATM, said: “The average spend per trip to the UK by visitors from KSA, UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain, per person, ranged from US$1,150 to US$3,153 in 2016. With a choice of 32 weekly direct flights to the UK, visitors from Saudi Arabia alone spent US$485 million in 2016, the highest average spends per visit of any of the UK’s source markets. Because GCC currencies are pegged to the US dollar, (Kuwait’s dinar is pegged to a basket of currencies including the US Dollar and the Euro) outbound travellers from the GCC to the UK continue to take advantage of the dollar to sterling exchange rate. In June 2015, the UK pound was worth US$1.59, today it is around US$1.33, a fall of over 16%.”

The report was conducted by Colliers International. As per the report, London is the most popular destination in the UK, recording almost 3.5 million room nights, compared to 3.9 million for the rest of England, 321,000 in Scotland, 215,000 in Wales, and almost 12,500 in Northern Ireland, in 2016.

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), total contribution of Travel & Tourism to GDP was GBP209 bn, 10.8% of GDP in 2016, and is forecast to rise by 2.2% in 2017, and to rise by 2.3% pa to GBP268.4bn, 11.4% of GDP in 2027, by which time international tourist arrivals are forecast to reach over 54 million generating expenditure of GBP42bn, an increase of 3.8% pa.

Indian outbound to GCC expected to increase by 2021

Around nine million Indians are expected to travel to the GCC by 2021, according to latest figures from Colliers International.

Reports from the UNWTO suggest the outbound Indian travel market will grow to 50 million by 2021, with average spend per trip by Indian travellers also increasing – UNWTO statistics reveal India is among the top 12 source markets globally that showed double digit growth in expenditure in 2016 – visitor spend reached a total of US$23.1 billion in 2016, up 15.1% year-on-year.

All these factors and more will be showcased at the forthcoming 25th edition of Arabian Travel Market scheduled to take place at Dubai World Trade Centre from 22-25 April 2018

Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director, ATM, said: “Surprisingly, there are just over 65 million passport holders in India out of a population of around 1.3 billion. Still it is no surprise that the growth of the global travel industry is being led by Asian travellers and the Middle East region can expect to benefit, with Indian tourist arrivals expected to grow by CAGR of seven to eight percent.”

Over the five-year period from 2012 to 2016, average percentage of Indian arrivals out of total arrivals in Kuwait was 15.4%; KSA, 10.6%; Bahrain, 17.6%; Oman, 11.2%; and UAE 9.8%.

According to ATM’s official research partner, Colliers, by 2021, this is expected to increase to: Kuwait (17.12%), KSA (11.88%), Bahrain (19.26%), UAE (10.8%) and Oman (11.9%). India retained top spot on Dubai’s list of source markets for inbound tourism, with 1,478,000 Indian tourists arriving in the city between January and September, registering a significant 20% rise over 2016.

India is also attracting visitors from the GCC, which is a top source market for medical tourism, and is expected to grow, as an entire industry, to US$ eight billion by 2020 from the US$3.9 billion of 2016. While the west coast resorts, such as Goa, remain popular with Middle East travellers, given its close proximity to the region.

ATM 2018 has adopted Responsible Tourism as its main theme and this will be integrated across all show verticals and activities, including focused seminar session, featuring dedicated exhibitor participation.

ATM 2017 adopting the ‘Experience’ factor

The Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2017 has promised to be bigger and better with a big focus on the ‘experiential’ factor. Tourism today is all about the experience and this will be the highlight of the show from 24-27 April 2017 at Dubai World Trade Centre.

The 24th edition will witness participation from more than 30,000 visitors across four-days, with over 2,800 exhibiting companies. The event organiser Reed Travel Exhibitions opens up an additional hall this year to cope with increased demand.

Simon Press, senior exhibition director, ATM, explains: “The show has experienced phenomenal growth of over 70% since 2012 and this year is going to break all previous records. We have more than 100 new exhibitors signed up and 65 country pavilions, while we expect representation from 140 countries.”

The GCC countries as a whole are looking towards tourism as a way of diversifying economies away from their reliance on hydrocarbon receipts. “And throughout the wider MENA region, rising youth unemployment rates are driving governments to invest in tourism which is not just a labour-intensive sector, it generates billions in foreign currency earnings.”

The Venue

The show theme being experiential will focus on taking in the adventure, culture, heritage, wellness and spa, sport, theme park, halal and cruise tourism segments, which are currently trending globally. This has been integrated across all show verticals and many activities.

“The increasing trend is for an immersive style of tourism, which encompasses different areas of local life – culinary, culture, history, shopping, nature, sports, halal, theme parks, wellness and spa, medical tourism and extreme luxury – and can be the basis for a holistic travel experience, by connecting with a place rather than just visiting it,” said Press.

The opening session will look at the role Expo2020 plays in delivering the UAE Government’s long-term vision for economic diversification. The UNWTO and ATM Ministerial Forum, entitled ‘Fostering contribution of tourism to sustainable economic growth and diversification in the MENA region’, will see 20 Ministers in attendance.

New this year is the inaugural Halal Travel Summit which will discuss halal destination strategies and how to sell halal travel. Other popular features include the Leaders Breakfast, Wellness and Spa Lounge, grown by 40% and now includes 35 international suppliers and 35 Middle East specialist buyers, Travel Agent Academy, Buyers Club and the Bloggers Speed Networking events.

The ATM Best Stand Awards are back for a third year and will see a line-up of top judges and visitors to the annual industry event acknowledge the design, creativity and positioning of exhibiting companies’ physical presence at the annual showcase.

The event has witnessed a year-on-year visitor attendance increase of nine percent to over 28,500 in 2016, with 2,785 exhibiting companies, signing business deals worth more than US$ 2.5 billion over four days.

Some of the key highlights of the show are briefly described in the showcase…

The shopping experience

Retail Gain

A recent report published by Colliers International on retail development and its impact on the hospitality industry reported that hotels clustered around Dubai’s Mall of The Emirates and The Dubai Mall, enjoy stronger business performance overall – not only beating seasonal fluctuations in tourist arrivals, but attracting more tourists over traditionally quiet summer season.

Statistics show that hotels developed in and around the region’s shopping malls can expect to post an Average Daily Rate (ADR) 25% higher than hotels that are not co-located with a major retail development.

The UAE has the strongest retail tourism sector in the region and Dubai’s retail accounts for more than 40% of total tourism spending. While Dubai and Abu Dhabi have more than 626,887 square metre of retail space currently under development, other major GCC cities are also looking to replicate the success with Muscat, Riyadh and Doha all currently engaged in similar retail projects.

In Oman, the development of Palm Mall in Muscat will span 157,000 sq. m. upon completion later this year. The mall will feature the Oman Aquarium, an indoor snow park, cinemas, food courts, an amphitheatre and a hypermarket. The Al Araimi Boulevard Mall also in Muscat will feature a dedicated kids’ zone, hypermarket, fashion brands and F&B outlets.

The Mall of Arabia in Saudi Arabia, the first to be completed in 2018 will showcase landscaped gardens, water features, retail stores and a co-located hotel. This will be joined by first phase of Mall of Saudi in 2022 offering shops, restaurants, entertainment areas, offices, a hotel and indoor ski facilities.

Qatar is not far behind with the Mall of Qatar in 2016, while this year will see the opening of Doha Festival City which will be home to four theme parks and entertainment concepts, plus 500 stores and a luxury hotel.

ATM preps travel agents

Travel Agents’ Academy

The ATM Travel Agents’ Academy will see a return with two half-day sessions.

The free-to-attend programme will include itinerary planning, sales training and destination briefings, with a networking break, refreshments and a course completion certificate for all delegates.

The first session of the programme will see Rohit Bassi, managing director of In Learning, return to ATM following his address at ATM 2016. He will discuss ‘Soul of Sales – The Nine Universal Principles’ which includes how to teach travel agents to build credibility and connection with clients; how to identify and offer solutions to clients; negotiation and management techniques; and to manage transformation from sale to client relationship.

Sundar Vasudayen, Principle Consultant at TRS Consulting will also share itinerary planning tips. A common issue in today’s fast-paced industry, TRS will outline a number of concepts related to successful itinerary planning, including the PRIDE Framework, which is based on focus areas of pace, routing, interests, detail and energy.

Putting the spotlight on wellness


The global wellness industry grew 10.6% to become a US$3.72 trillion market in 2015, with the spa market being a key driver according to new research from the Global Wellness Institute (GWI).

According to research from Colliers, the UAE spa industry is estimated to be valued at AED1.7 billion, accounting for 14% of the MENA spa market, and expected to surpass AED1.85 billion by 2020.

Dubai currently has more than 200 spas in operation, with 25 new hotel spas expected to open this year. A number of wellness and travel trends are expected in 2017 including a move towards healthy holidays such as eat well, detox holidays and get-fit boot camps resulting in increased number of wellness packages offered at spas.

Other trends set to benefit the region in 2017 are an expected increase in demand to embrace local culture, heritage and sights.

Medical tourism will be another highlight. According to Dubai Health Authority (DHA), Dubai attracted 630,831, medical tourists during 2015 out of which 298,359 (47%) were international and 332,472 (53%) were domestic.

Sports Tourism

Sports tourism will be in the spotlight as UAE and Qatar lead the GCC in attracting more regional and international sporting competitions. The segment will be in focus as the GCC competes to capture a greater share of the US$600 billion global industry.

Sport tourism and the regional leisure industry have become increasingly important drivers for international arrivals to the GCC over recent years. Sport generates 25% of all tourism receipts globally, according to data from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), with 76% of trips, planned around a sporting event.

Many countries throughout the region host numerous sporting events such as Grand Prix, international Golf tournaments, swimming, horse racing, sailing, tennis and cricket, with the UAE and Qatar leading the way.

In Dubai, total annual sports-related expenditure was valued at around US$1.7 billion in 2014, according to the recent ‘Economic Impact of Sport in Dubai’ study by Deloitte. The report also found total economic impact of sport in the emirate stood at a significant US$670 million. In Qatar, additional visitors could push growth of travel market from values of QR18 million in 2016 to QR37 million in 2025, at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of eight percen. This growth will peak in 2022 at QR48 million when the Gulf state hosts the 2022 FIFA World Cup.



Regional boost for ATM 2017 visitor numbers

Recent statistics revealed by the management of Arabian Travel Market state that a 10% increase is witnessed from visitors in the GCC and an increase of seven percent from international visitors.

This is the second year that visitor numbers crossed the 28,000 mark – marking a 71% increase in visitors over last five years.

Simon Press, senior exhibition director, ATM, said: “The event has built on its quality year-on-year and professionalism of exhibitors and stands. Exhibition stand contracts signed during ATM 2017 for next year are up 38% year-on-year, with exhibitors keen to reserve their space for the 25th anniversary.”

The 2017 edition had representations from 87 countries and over 100 new exhibitors making their debut. The number of countries represented at ATM 2017, taken from all attendees, totalled 157.

The UNWTO and ATM Ministerial Forum was attended by more than 20 government ministers and global leaders. The Forum touched upon key priorities for the region’s tourism industry that include human resources development, public/private sector cooperation, connectivity, technology and sustainability.

“Despite all external shocks, the Middle East and North Africa tell one of tourism’s biggest success stories. A story that brings an immense opportunity to make tourism a pillar of economic diversification, job creation and sustainable development in this region” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.

Other popular features included the Wellness and Spa Lounge, Travel Agents’ Academy, Buyers’ Club and the Bloggers’ Speed Networking events. Responsible tourism, which played a huge part in the show and continues to be at the forefront, has appropriately been named the theme for 2018.