Close cooperation between the GCC and Asia Pacific travel industries will create "a force to be reckoned with", the Pacific Asia Travel Association's (PATA) president and CEO has declared.
Speaking to ATN following his recent visit to Dubai, Peter de Jong said these "two hot markets" could work together to create a travel and tourism super power.
"But first of all we need to understand one another's markets. Our members want to learn about the Gulf and we want to attract more visitors to Asia Pacific," he said.
"It's all about understanding the customer and gaining market intelligence."
PATA statistics reveal that non-stop air seat capacity between the Gulf and Asia Pacific has increased at an average of 11% each year since 2000, while arrival growth rates in Asia Pacific from the Gulf have hit the 54% mark for Macau and Malaysia, 43% to Hong Kong and almost 30% to Singapore.
"Last year, we saw more than a million arrivals from the Gulf and we forecast that this is the beginning of a vast, new wave of travel in both directions," said de Jong.
Movements to the Middle East were currently dominated by labour traffic and business travel, but leisure would follow he said: "People are travelling to the region for the first time and are intrigued by hotels like the Burj Al Arab that have put Dubai on the map."
But he warned that the Gulf countries needed to differentiate themselves.
"The stereotypical blanket response [we get in Asia] is that the region is homogenous, so we need to educate the market about what the different [Gulf] countries have to offer," said de Jong.
On the flip side, de Jong said Asia Pacific needed to know how to enhance and extend the length of stay of GCC visitors. He also acknowledged the need to drive further air capacity between the two regions.
"Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways understand the medium-term vision for Asia Pacific and we want to help them get in contact with the right markets. If they don't grow, there is the risk that low cost carriers will come in and steal the market," he explained.
De Jong also encouraged GCC travel representatives to take part in PATA Travel Mart at the Bali International Convention Centre from September 25 to 28, where they can meet with key Asia Pacific travel suppliers. PATA non-members are welcome.
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