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Tourism chiefs call for GCC-wide events calendar

A Diwali celebration held during Expo 2020 in Dubai. GCC officials want to work together to prevent event clashes Zoonar/Viktoryia Vinnikava/Alamy via Reuters Connect
A Diwali celebration held during Expo 2020 in Dubai. GCC officials want to work together to prevent event clashes
  • Biggest events ‘should be co-ordinated’
  • Unified GCC visa expected this year
  • Region can attract ‘Taylor Swifts of world

Gulf Cooperation Council nations should co-ordinate their event schedules to avoid overlaps and entice tourists to make multiple stops in the region, officials have said at the Arabian Travel Market conference.

The six GCC governments – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – are exploring ways to co-operate on tourism, including a unified visa set to become available by the end of the year.

“I really love the suggestion of aligning our calendars, at least on the biggest events,” Fahd Hamidaddin, chief executive of the Saudi Tourism Authority, said during a panel discussion on Monday at the Dubai conference.

“Not only the ones that we host individually but also if we want to get the Taylor Swifts of the world, we can collaborate and get them to the region if we do it together and get an Arabian tour.” 

Gulf officials are collaborating in hopes of extending the length of business and leisure visitors’ stays in the region, according to Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, chairman of Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority.

“People wouldn’t go to the US, stay two nights and come back,” he said. “Usually people travel for two, three, maybe four-week holidays. 

“We want them to combine their holidays here within the GCC and make it easy for them so they can buy a package, and we might need to maybe align some of the biggest mega-events.”

Al Midfa said the GCC could look at the UAE’s own experience – and how the individual emirates have learned to compete with one another while also creating alliances that benefit everyone.

Officials are looking at joint marketing campaigns as well as GCC-wide holiday packages.

“We signed an MOU with Saudi to promote Bahrain and Saudi as a unified destination, and we are doing the same with the rest,” said Sarah Buhijji, chief executive of Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority.

Taylor Swift fans pose ahead of her first concert in Singapore. Gulf officials could work together to attract major artists for 'Arabian tours'EyePress/Alan Siu via Reuters Connect
Taylor Swift fans pose ahead of her first concert in Singapore. Gulf officials could work together to attract major artists for ‘Arabian tours’

The Bahrain deal was signed last June. In December Saudi Arabia reached a similar agreement with Oman. 

GCC collaboration “allows us to tap into the larger market and offer a more diverse product that will definitely keep this region in a better competitive position compared to other regions around the world”, said Azzan Al Busaidi, Oman’s undersecretary of tourism.

Last December Oman drew up plans to join arms with Ras Al Khaimah – one of the seven emirates of the UAE – to promote themselves as a single destination for adventure travel.

Olivier Ponti from ForwardKeys, a travel analytics company in Spain, told AGBI: “Where countries share tourism assets, it makes sense for them to collaborate on product development, promotion and ease of access because together they can be more attractive as a destination than going it alone.”

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