Family centric travel, which accounted for more than 12.5 per cent of the US$1.07 trillion global tourism market, has been selected as the official show theme for Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2015, which takes place at the Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre from 4-7 May 2015.
According to Thomson Reuters' data, the value of the global family tourism market was US$140 billion in 2013. That figure is set to rise to over US$180 billion by 2018 with growth expected to continue at a rate of 4.79 per cent annually until 2020, compared with just 3.8% overall tourism growth.
"Demand for inter-regional family travel will also remain robust through to 2020 and beyond. The Economist Intelligence Unit estimated that the GCC population would soar to 53.5 million by 2020, 24% of which would be under 15 years of age," Nadege Noblet, Exhibition Manager of Arabian Travel Market, WTM Portfolio, Reed Travel Exhibitions.
The Dubai Capital of Islamic Economy initiative has identified the U.A.E. as a top source market for family travel, with spending power worth over US$10 billion. Additional research data from technology and payments business Visa, showed that Saudi Arabians are the world's biggest spenders when overseas, racking up a per capita average of US$6,666 per trip. In stark contrast UK-based shopping platform ‘Give As You Live', revealed that the average British family of four spends US$5,800 on their annual holiday.
"Although family travel is growing, these contrasting spending patterns present strategic challenges as well as opportunities for government bodies, hotels and tourism services providers throughout the region with a clear need for a wide spectrum of family-focused offerings to satisfy budget sensitivities as well as cultural expectations," said Noblet.
The ATM 2015 line-up will include a number of dedicated seminar sessions addressing these issues with panel-led discussions on how Gulf destinations can boost their appeal to the lucrative family tourism market and develop family-specific amenities, the pressing need for value-for-money accommodation options and – at the other extreme – the rise in aspirational travel from high-spending families for whom the experience outweighs the expense.
In the Middle East, GCC families often travel in large groups and companies like Millennium & Copthorne are honing in on the demand for value-for-money accommodation with the development of new brands designed to service the unique needs of travelling families.
"Historically, attracting families to stay at your hotel has involved creating special packages or seasonal offers, while juggling with yield and room configurations. With our recently launched Millennium Executive Apartments brand, we can now offer a tailored product with a simplified rate structure," said Naeem Darkazally, Vice President of sales and marketing for Millennium and Copthorne Middle East & Africa.
Driving family business throughout the year is also linked to destination attractiveness with cities like Abu Dhabi and Dubai already offering world-class family attractions as well as shopping, summer and Ramadan festivals. Family travel is no longer simply about maximising revenue streams during school holiday periods, putting temporary beds into existing rooms and adding kids' activities to a one size fits all entertainment programme. There has to be a sense of anticipation, inclusion, engagement, dedication and of course value," said Noblet.
The Family Travel theme will be added to the ATM 2015 collection of exhibition trails including budget travel, health and wellbeing, shopping, transportation, luxury travel, sports travel, culture and heritage and adventure travel.
The 2015 event will also grow with the announcement of an additional hall as Reed Travel Exhibitions looks to build on its record-breaking achievements this year, which saw total attendance increase by 12% to reach 33,000 exhibitors and visitors.