Lead­ers Group re­port pre­dicts 1.8 bil­lion tourists by 2030 Tur­moil in touris­tic des­ti­na­tions forces tourists to seek al­ter­na­tives

TUR­MOIL IN TOURIST DES­TI­NA­TIONS FORCES TOURISTS TO SEEK AL­TER­NA­TIVES

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL -

The threat of ter­ror­ism and its reper­cus­sions con­tinue to af­fect tourist des­ti­na­tions and sources in the medium and short terms. Yet this did not af­fect the op­ti­mistic ex­pec­ta­tions of hav­ing the num­ber of cross-bor­der tourists reach 1.8 bil­lion by 2030. De­spite this, and in light of the quan­ti­ta­tive and qualitative changes re­lated to in­ter­na­tional and re­gional tourism, the stud­ies de­part­ment of the Lead­ers Group for Con­sul­ta­tion and De­vel­op­ment presents in its monthly re­port for June-July 2017 the im­por­tant fea­tures of tourism un­der the cur­rent stage, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the sum­mer sea­son, as fol­lows:

In­creased search for se­cure tourist des­ti­na­tions (tra­di­tional or new, be they states, ar­eas or cer­tain cities in­side these states).

In­creased need for en­er­giz­ing do­mes­tic tourism in many coun­tries be­cause of se­cu­rity ten­sions and po­lit­i­cal crises around the world.

The ne­ces­sity for lay­ing down in­ter­na­tional ref­er­ences that are con­cerned with travel, tourism and the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try - a set of ad­vanced and uni­fied stan­dards to deal with re­sults and re­flec­tions of sud­den ob­struc­tions of tourist move­ments, such as can­cel­la­tion of trips and reser­va­tions at the last mo­ment for rea­sons beyond the con­trol of pas­sen­gers and tourists.

The fol­low­ing is a tran­script of Lead­ers Group’s re­port that shows and con­firms these fea­tures and di­rec­tions:

Ear­lier, in­ter­na­tional re­ports spoke about po­lit­i­cal ar­rests, nat­u­ral dis­as­ters and ter­ror­ism as the most neg­a­tive fac­tors that af­fect tourism in the world. That was true dur­ing the pe­riod of the ef­fects of the Arab Spring at the start of this decade, but the last few years con­firm the ter­ror­ism is now ahead of the rest of the fac­tors as far as re­cur­rence and quan­ti­ta­tive in­di­ca­tors are con­cerned, with the pos­si­bil­ity of an ad­vance­ment of other fac­tors re­lated to the se­cu­rity of tourists, travel and trans­port, while point­ing to the ar­gu­ment of car­ram­ming in­ci­dents as well as the fail­ure of safety tests of tow­ers re­gard­ing fire haz­ards.

Re­gard­less of new things on the in­ter­na­tional and re­gional tourism map, many Arab touris­tic coun­tries in­clud­ing Egypt, Le­banon, Jor­dan and Tu­nisia, in ad­di­tion to Turkey and other tra­di­tional and emer­gent Euro­pean des­ti­na­tions, are work­ing hard to re­vive the move­ment of Gulf tourists to them, as they are the most im­por­tant sources of tourism in the re­gion with re­gards to their num­bers, vol­ume and rate of tourist spend­ing de­spite the drop in oil prices, and de­spite do­mes­tic tourism de­vel­op­ment plans in some Gulf coun­tries. Based on a World Bank re­port, we can estimate the rate of Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil cit­i­zens’ spend­ing on for­eign tourism at more than $67.1 bil­lion.

Se­cure and easy travel

Whether the mat­ter is re­lated to the rise in the global num­ber of tourists (1.8 bil­lion), or the ex­pen­di­ture of Gulf tourists, es­pe­cially in sum­mer, it is clear that the great­est ben­e­fits from these two sources is no longer de­pen­dent on the readi­ness of host coun­tries and tra­di­tional and emer­gent tourist des­ti­na­tions to de­velop their hos­pi­tal­ity and travel in­dus­try. It de­pends, as it is known, on the abil­ity to quickly deal with ob­sta­cles that af­fect tourism such as ter­ror­ism, po­lit­i­cal un­rest, nat­u­ral catas­tro­phes and oth­ers.

They are also re­lated to the ne­ces­sity to pay at­ten­tion to im­ple­ment­ing pri­or­i­ties and safe, se­cure and easy travel stan­dards of the World Tourism Or­ga­ni­za­tion that were men­tioned in the clos­ing of­fi­cial re­port of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s tech­ni­cal coun­cil in its lat­est meet­ing that was held in Madrid in May, be­sides the pri­or­i­ties of the ef­fects of tech­nol­ogy on the tourism sec­tor if we ap­ply the time av­er­age to re­cover from tourism ob­sta­cles, ac­cord­ing to what touris­tic coun­tries went through lately. Re­gional and Euro­pean des­ti­na­tions that were hit by ter­ror­ism since the start of this year will not to­tally re­cover be­fore the start of next year, as ter­ror­ism comes, ac­cord­ing to in­ter­na­tional re­ports in third place in ob­struct­ing and threat­en­ing tourism.

The es­ti­mated pe­riod for tourism to re­cover from it is around 13 months, maybe less or more ac­cord­ing to the coun­try’s abil­ity to get out of the neg­a­tive ef­fects and re­store con­fi­dence in its se­cu­rity pro­ce­dures and the suc­cess of its mar­ket­ing and plans, which must be ex­tra­or­di­nary. But suc­ces­sive ter­ror­ist op­er­a­tions that tar­get a coun­try or city make the re­cov­ery process ex­haust­ing and dif­fi­cult as well as costly, and this is true with a num­ber of no­table tourism coun­tries that form an im­por­tant des­ti­na­tion for Gulf tourists.

Bri­tain as an ex­am­ple

What was said above ap­plies to tourism in Bri­tain, which used to be one of the best des­ti­na­tions for Gulf tourists be­fore the lat­est ter­ror­ist at­tacks. Tourism author­i­ties in Bri­tain had hoped to raise the num­ber of visi­tors from Gulf coun­tries by 2020 by 40 per­cent, es­pe­cially since Gulf tourists top the list of tourists spend­ing on shop­ping in Bri­tain dou­ble the av­er­age spend­ing of other tourists. This formed an ad­di­tional mo­tive for Bri­tish tourism author­i­ties to en­cour­age pro­ce­dures for Gulf na­tion­als to get visas fol­low­ing the drop of tourists to Bri­tain be­cause of the fi­nan­cial cri­sis that shook sev­eral West­ern and Asian coun­tries that are tra­di­tion­ally ex­porters of tourists. This re­sulted at the time in in­creas­ing the num­ber of visi­tors from Saudi Ara­bia, Qatar and UAE be­tween 2008 and 2013 at a rate that ex­ceeded 35 per­cent.

Yet, ter­ror­ist at­tacks were able to dis­turb tourism more than once. The Brexit ref­er­en­dum on Bri­tain’s exit from the Euro­pean Union a year ago re­duced the pound ster­ling’s value and con­trib­uted to a par­tial rise in the num­ber of Gulf tourists, es­pe­cially with the re­duc­tion of travel costs by 10 to 20 per­cent. But the re­sump­tion of ter­ror­ist op­er­a­tions dur­ing the year, start­ing with at­tacks in West­min­ster, then Manch­ester and Lon­don, then fi­nally the sui­cide at­tack on Lon­don Bridge that was car­ried out by three ter­ror­ists that killed 10, and what fol­lowed in the form of car-ram­ming in­ci­dents, all led to a large drop in tourism.

The num­ber of visi­tors to Lon­don’s tourist land­marks and en­ter­tain­ment cen­ters dropped ac­cord­ing to Lon­don po­lice in the mid­dle of June. Im­por­tant touris­tic land­marks such as Madame Tus­sauds and a chain of en­ter­tain­ment cen­ters spoke about a drop in “day trips” and de­te­ri­o­rat­ing do­mes­tic demand, and wor­ried about “the rate of vis­its by for­eign­ers in the com­ing months”.

Be­sides that, the prob­lem of the Gren­fell Tower fire west of the cap­i­tal where around 80 were killed, and the evac­u­a­tion of hun­dreds of res­i­den­tial units and dis­cov­er­ing the fail­ure of more than 120 tow­ers so far in fire safety tests con­firms once again the im­por­tant of the re­la­tion­ship of tourism with se­cu­rity and safety mea­sures that are not only con­cerned with the se­cu­rity and safety of avi­a­tion. It is worth men­tion­ing that the tech­ni­cal de­fects that hit Bri­tish Air­ways com­puter net­works at the end of last year and con­tin­ued for days led to losses es­ti­mated at $190 million due to de­lay­ing thou­sands of pas­sen­gers at Heathrow and Gatwick air­ports, and the payment of com­pen­sa­tion to ev­ery pas­sen­ger.

Bri­tain, with these fac­tors, seems to face many chal­lenges that are not only con­cerned with the reper­cus­sions of ter­ror­ism, but also with restor­ing tourism con­fi­dence in travel and trans­port safety and se­cu­rity pro­ce­dures. State­ments of of­fi­cials about tourism and pro­mo­tion cam­paigns about the re­turn of life to nor­mal in ar­eas tar­geted by ter­ror­ism, such as Manch­ester, are not enough to re­cover tourism soon, and this is why sta­tis­tics of this sum­mer sea­son will not have much happy news as far as the in­crease in the num­ber of Gulf tourists, or even oth­ers, to the United King­dom is con­cerned.

Turkey: Mul­ti­ple ob­sta­cles

Con­trary to ex­pec­ta­tions, pre­lim­i­nary in­di­ca­tors con­firm a ma­jor dis­ap­point­ment for those con­cerned with the Turk­ish tourism sec­tor to­wards the re­sults of the Eid Al-Fitr hol­i­day, to a point where pes­simism to­wards the en­tire sum­mer sea­son is present, which means the con­tin­ued re­ces­sion of the sec­tor that used to make Turkey three years ago the sixth most im­por­tant tourist des­ti­na­tion in the world with 40 million tourists and cre­at­ing around two million jobs.

Turkey is an ex­am­ple of an ad­vanced touris­tic coun­try, but it is go­ing through sev­eral se­cu­rity and po­lit­i­cal fac­tors that ob­struct tourism at the same time: The shoot­ing down of a Rus­sian jet in Dec 2015 and an at­tempted coup in July 2016, in ad­di­tion to ter­ror­ist at­tacks and blasts that were claimed by IS and PKK in wide ar­eas of the coun­try, in­clud­ing the at­tack on Ataturk Air­port; then a night­club at­tack that killed 39 per­sons on New Year’s Eve, in­clud­ing Gulf na­tion­als; then Turkey’s in­volve­ment in the Gulf cri­sis, after be­ing in­volved in the Syr­ian cri­sis from the be­gin­ning.

The num­ber of tourists dropped sig­nif­i­cantly after all these events. Rus­sian flights were suspended and Rus­sians were kept from vis­it­ing Turkey for eight months, and the drop in the num­ber of tourists from Rus­sia con­tin­ues, which rep­re­sents along with Ger­many and United King­dom the source of the ma­jor­ity of tourists vis­it­ing Turkey. Fol­low­ing hopes of Gulf na­tion­als re­turn­ing to con­trib­ute to re­viv­ing the sec­tor, the ac­cu­sa­tion of Turkey in­ter­fer­ing as a party in the Gulf cri­sis led to in­creased fear that Gulf na­tion­als may re­frain from vis­it­ing Turkey, along with an advisory by Saudi Ara­bia not to travel to Turkey as it did with Le­banon when ten­sions rose be­tween the two coun­tries, bear­ing in mind that the num­ber of Saudi tourists reached last year reached 500,000.

There is no doubt that the sharp drop in Ger­man, Bri­tish, Rus­sian and Gulf tourists will not help re­cov­ery soon, as most re­cent in­di­ca­tors show that tourism in some pop­u­lar Turk­ish ar­eas is de­te­ri­o­rat­ing day by day, even in at­trac­tive ar­eas over­look­ing the Aegean Sea, which is con­sid­ered one of the most im­por­tant tourist des­ti­na­tions there. Some ho­tels have com­plained that the rate of book­ings did not reach 30 per­cent dur­ing the Eid Al-Fitr hol­i­day.

The new de­vel­op­ments of tourism in Bri­tain and Turkey as men­tioned and an­a­lyzed in this re­port con­firm the ex­treme sen­si­tiv­ity of tourism and its re­turns as a result of ter­ror­ism and other fac­tors that are no less dangerous. The study of these two cases shows the vari­ables of re­gional and in­ter­na­tional tourism des­ti­na­tions and the move­ment of tourists in the re­gion and Europe, at least, are faster than any ex­pec­ta­tions, which re­quires the pre­par­ing of new tourist des­ti­na­tions that are safer and more at­trac­tive to Gulf and Euro­pean tourists dur­ing sum­mer and other hol­i­days.

The dif­fer­ences be­tween the two cases show that reper­cus­sions on tourism are dangerous each time ter­ror­ism and se­cu­rity cir­cum­stances are ac­com­pa­nied with po­lit­i­cal dis­tur­bances, and re­cov­ery be­comes more dif­fi­cult and takes a longer time. This means that al­ter­na­tive choices for Gulf tourists, be it Arab or oth­er­wise, may be­come longterm, es­pe­cially if those al­ter­na­tive des­ti­na­tions are able to de­velop their at­tributes and ex­pe­ri­ences in the field of hos­pi­tal­ity, ho­tels and travel. Bear­ing in mind the many tourist des­ti­na­tion were and are still be­ing ex­posed to ter­ror­ism and dis­tur­bances, it is ex­tremely im­por­tant to de­duce that strength­en­ing do­mes­tic tourism re­mains one of the best choices and more se­cure and less costly for coun­tries that ex­port tourists, such as GCC coun­tries.

It is also im­por­tant for tourist de­ci­sion mak­ers at the do­mes­tic and re­gional lev­els and in spe­cial­ized or­ga­ni­za­tions to reflect daily on tourism move­ments with all their economic, se­cu­rity and cul­tural as­pects. This re­quires close fol­low-up that goes beyond re­ac­tions in order to guarantee a bet­ter world for tourism and its ben­e­fits.

KUWAIT: Trav­el­ers pre­pare to catch their flights at Kuwait In­ter­na­tional Air­port dur­ing the most re­cent Eid Al-Fitr hol­i­day. — KUNA pho­tos

Na­bila Al-An­jari, head of the Lead­ers Group for Con­sul­ta­tion and De­vel­op­ment

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