Brexit will have limited impact on UAE tourism
Despite the uncertainty that continues to revolve around Brexit, tourism experts and officials noted that there will be a limited and short-term impact on tourism to the UAE, as the country remains a popular destination among travellers from the UK.
Speaking to Khaleej Times, Matthew Sliedrecht, director of Marketing at Cleartrip, said: "We saw a 27 per cent growth year-on-year in both inbound and outbound traffic between the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom in the first quarter of 2019. However, once the Brexit transitional period began, we saw that reverse into negative growth. Since March, we have seen that year on year traffic decrease by 12 per cent for inbound and 11 per cent for outbound."
Lewis Allsopp, CEO of Allsopp & Allsopp, noted that the UAE is a tourist haven, and that UK citizens will certainly be looking at what the country has to offer for their next vacation.
"The UAE has always welcomed expats with open arms and is becoming increasingly expat friendly. With the UK seeing some turbulent times with Bexit being at the forefront, many people in the country are sure to be looking at options and opportunities overseas if they are in a position to do so. The UAE offers an attractive lifestyle and, of course, a tax free income that is far from the case in the UK. I predict that the UAE will see an increase in UK expatriates over the next few years as a result of the uncertainty caused by Brexit. With rental and sales prices in Dubai nearing the bottom of the curve, 2020 would be the ideal time to look into a move to the UAE," he said.
According to Dubai Tourism, despite the devaluation of the pound against the dollar, and continued Brexit uncertainty, the UK remained Dubai's third largest source market with 1,086,000 visitors recorded in the January to November 2019 period, largely due to the intense 'always on' series of in-market activities ranging from seasonal campaigns and promotions, to heavy stakeholder engagement including high-level envoy visits.
In addition, research carried out by Colliers International ahead of the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2020, showed that arrivals from the UK to the GCC will increase 22 per cent over the 2018 to 2024 period, driven by new and direct flight routes, competitive air fares and a growing number of leisure travellers. As many as 2.8 million UK residents will travel to the GCC in 2024, an additional 500,000 travellers when compared to 2018 arrival figures.
"Historically, the UK and the GCC have enjoyed excellent travel and tourism links and this trend is set to continue over the next four years despite the economic uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the bleak pound to dollar exchange rate, in which sterling has declined 18.9 per cent since June 19, 2015," said Danielle Curtis, exhibition director for the Middle East region, Arabian Travel Market. "The UAE is expected to continue to be the preferred GCC destination for British tourists, welcoming a projected 2.23 million visitors by 2023. Saudi Arabia will follow with 251,000 visitors, while Oman will welcome 165,000, Bahrain 159,000 and Kuwait 5,000."
Alexandre de Juniac, IATA's director general and CEO, noted that slowing economic growth, trade wars, geopolitical tensions, and social unrest, plus continuing uncertainty over Brexit all came together to create a tougher than anticipated business environment for airlines. Yet the industry managed to achieve a decade in the black, as restructuring and cost-cutting continued to pay dividends. "It appears that 2019 will be the bottom of the current economic cycle and the forecast for 2020 is somewhat brighter," he said.