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The Gulf Cooperation Council countries are lucrative and attractive markets for European destinations and businesses to turn to with the aim of attracting new market segments to Europe. Our GCC Market Workshop on 3rd September in Geneva will therefore examine how recent changes have impacted on the various existing travel segments, as well as the opportunities that willshape the future of travel.

A recent Amadeus report focused on examining the big travel effects and different travel segments of which the tourism industry needs to be aware, and how to actively tap into in order to succeed. Three of the travel segments mentioned in the report were particularly interesting, indicating some of the opportunities for businesses, but also challenges for the industry as a whole to connect with, in order to work more efficiently with travellers.

The Coming of Age Traveller

The GCC market is a surprisingly young one, making it an attractive consumer market for European destinations and businesses to target. Already, the young and rapidly growing population is a key driver in GCC countries with regard to travel and other sectors. As these consumers are maturing and are 'coming of age', they become travellers themselves, seeking new, unique and memorable experiences worldwide.

Technology and social media also play a key role when travelling. Destinations and businesses that are considered highly attractive and developed need to ensure that they have an attractive online presence, and should be highly active on social media too. This can often be the defining aspect of success, as connecting with the key millennial demographic is particularly focused on mobile and social media platforms.

This segment of travellers will make a quick move from first time travellers to becoming decision-makers of the future, combining business trips with leisure activities, so called 'bleisure' trips.

The Family Traveller

Family is considered important within the GCC countries, and it is notable that family sizes are large, with on average four children in comparison to 2.5 in other high income countries. It is also interesting that most families from the GCC region like to travel with other family members and friends, looking to arrange a trip including a range of entertainment and activities. Often families from the GCC region opt for a package holiday, ensuring that the necessities of a larger group travelling are met. Visiting friends and relatives has also been a big driver of this traveller segment, making it an interesting segment for the tourism industry, and one within which clear preferences can be identified.

The Independent Traveller

Mobile readiness is a particularly important requirement for the independent traveller, creating the need for tourism providers to ensure that their desires are anticipated, and that they are effectively connecting with them through mobile. Research has indicated that contemporary travellers increasingly expect to be able to access goods, services and information at every stage of travel, and mobile plays an absolutely critical role in this process.

The independent traveller is a truly exciting demographic in the GCC, with massive potential, comprising primarily of travellers between the ages of 26 and 45. When this group plan and book travel, a mixture of phone and Internet are used. There is always a view toward planning every aspect of travel independently, rather than selecting services that have been pre-combined at provider sites or through online travel agencies. Report findings indicate that this traveller segment expects tourism companies to be 'responsive, fast, accessible, and personable'.

From an opportunity perspective, it is clear that the above traveller demographics are interesting and valuable ones to focus on, and that the GCC as a market overall can be lucrative and attractive for destinations in Europe. However, due to the specific needs and expectations of GCC travellers, targeting them will also require thinking about a strategy that works for the market, and crafting an approach that can attract the traveller segments which seem most fitting with the flavour of tourism that a destination or service provider is able to offer.

We believe that getting to grips with this market now is more important than ever. As competition in this region rises, it will simply become harder and harder to stand out significantly from other destinations. Gaining a headstart in this market, and occupying a commercial presence in this market ahead of competitors, is absolutely crucial in the process of achieving success.

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