In times of crisis, travel trade and hospitality companies should look beyond traditional markets which may be suffering from an economic downturn, resist spending yet more money in these areas, and consider instead testing the waters of still buoyant but perhaps ‘non traditional' areas for their marketing budget, such as the Middle East.
According to the World Tourism Organisation, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the two largest outbound travel markets in terms of average spend, with Saudi Arabian and UAE travellers spending US$6.7 billion and US$4.9 million respectively on annual overseas travel. With increasing pressure on currencies linked to the US$ and the ‘spending power' dramatically reduced in the Euro zone, more GCC residents and expatriates are looking towards Asia for cost effective, enjoyable vacations.
This travel trend has not diminished over the past few months; for example, the Abu Dhabi International Airport, home to Etihad, enjoyed unprecedented growth this summer with Asia as one of the most popular travel destinations. Etihad carried 1.6 million passengers in the period June-August, with the most popular destinations being Cairo, Thailand and London; all regional airlines are expanding routes, destinations, frequencies and fleet. No cutbacks evident here yet!
Traditional travel periods from the Middle East encompass peak, shoulder and low season travel, ensuring a year-round appeal, with a wide target market of singles, couples, families and businessmen.
How should Asia target this potential travel market? Before investing in expensive offices and GCC based personnel, make sure that your tourist board and/or national airline office in the region has your promotional material, then take a careful look at the benefits of public relations to help you spread the word in a cost effective manner to a wide range of regional media. A focus on Public Relations rather than only advertising is a smart way to stretch marketing budgets in times of cutbacks and financial constraints as PR will raise your profile and credibility to consumers and your peers - raising awareness of, and confidence in, your services and product at a minimum cost. Such services are well within the reach of most marketing budgets.
THEN review your budget and invest in some carefully targeted advertising.
The GCC is a lucrative market which finds Asia an attractive and value-for-money destination. Don't lose out on this. Take a pro-active stance, and do it now before travel plans are finalised for 2009!
About Caroline Tapken
Caroline Tapken is a Dubai-based PR Consultant working with Shrimp Asia on tourism, hospitality, aviation and consumer goods clients.
Shrimp Asia Middle East FZ-LLC The Lofts, Building 2, Office 218, Dubai Media City, P.O.Box 502527, Dubai, U.A.E. Tel +971 4 364 4649, Fax +971 4 360 4796, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.shrimp-asia.com