By Andy Sambidge
Organisation completes travel trade mission to Saudi Arabia as it seeks to build on this growth
The number of GCC tourists to the UK rose by 10 percent in the first nine months of 2013 compared to the year-earlier period, new figures from VisitBritain reveal.
As VisitBritain hosts its annual GCC travel trade mission in Saudi Arabia for the first time this week, figures also showed that their spending power increased by 11 percent.
This level of growth resulted in visits and spend hitting new records for the January to September period, with just over £1 billion spent during 452,000 total visits from the six GCC countries - Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar.
VisitBritain said it GCC trade mission, held this week in Riyadh and Jeddah, aims to build on this growth, providing UK suppliers with the opportunity to meet more than 60 travel agents from across Saudi Arabia.
VisitBritain has invested heavily in ongoing tactical marketing across the GCC region as part of the GREAT campaign.
In December it signed a three-year, £2 million-pound partnership with Etihad Airways to facilitate joint marketing activities and worked together with the UK Embassy and British Council in Qatar to show case the collaborative work of UK and Qatari fashion designers for the 2013 Qatar-UK Fashion Exchange.
VisitBritain predicts that by 2020 Saudi Arabia will have the highest projected value percentage growth - 181 percent - among the 20 major and emerging markets in its tourism strategy.
It is also among the top five most high-spending markets for Britain, with an average spend per visit of £2,354, whilst the overall average for all visitors to Britain is £600 per visit.
Joss Croft, VisitBritain Mission leader and marketing director, said: "We have ambitious growth targets which we are working tirelessly to achieve from across the GCC region.
"We've already partnered and launched campaigns with the top three airlines - Emirates, Qatar and Etihad - and our trade missions allow us to facilitate relationships with the people who help us sell the best of Britain."For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.