Getting GCC ready: North West’s tourism sector invited to better understand the Arab visitor market

Tourism venues and organisations from across the North West were invited to attend a special workshop today aimed at creating greater awareness of how to meet the needs of the lucrative GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) market, comprised of the countries Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

The free workshop, delivered by staff from VisitBritain’s Dubai office, took place at The Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester and was attended by over 100 representatives from the region’s tourism boards, hotels, attractions, restaurants and retail organisations. It provided first-hand insight into GCC visitors’ motivations, needs, expectations and behaviours, including an industry perspective from Selfridges.

Recent coverage in national press has highlighted the popularity of Manchester as a destination of choice for the Arab market, which views the city as a compact location with excellent accommodation, high-end shopping, plenty of urban attractions and great access to countryside and the rest of the north of England.

The workshop was supported by the UK Governments’ Discover England Fund administered by VisitEngland, as part of wider project that Marketing Manchester is delivering in partnership with London & Partners, London’s official tourism body.

The London and Manchester: Gateways of England project aims to encourage GCC travellers to explore beyond London by increasing awareness of Manchester and the north of England, creating new options for intercity travel and introducing ‘open jaw’ ticketing, in which visitors fly in to one airport and leave via another.

The GCC has been identified as the ideal market in which to undertake this activity due to Manchester’s existing popularity amongst Arab visitors and the excellent connectivity that the region has via multiple daily flights from Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other GCC air hubs.

Commenting on the value of the workshop, Sheona Southern, managing director at Marketing Manchester, said: “Visitors from the GCC have some of the highest visitor spend of any international market, and with their increasing interest in Greater Manchester and the north of England as a leisure destination, now is the perfect time for tourism professionals across the region to learn how to effectively engage and ensure that their businesses are in prime condition to tap into this market.

“Moving forward, Manchester is planning to capitalise on this growing market by creating a comprehensive ecosystem to enhance the GCC visitor experience throughout the north of England. This, combined with the Gateways of England project, will help place Greater Manchester as a go-to destination for GCC visitors.”

VisitBritain/VisitEngland chief executive Sally Balcombe said added: “Manchester is not only a vibrant, exciting city but also a gateway to explore to north of England. VisitBritain is delighted to be helping local businesses understand customer expectations of the high-spending GCC market.”