Hilton notes key outbound trends

Scandanavia and Spain are two of the most promising emerging outbound destinations from the GCC, according to Hilton International.

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By  Gemma Greenwood Published  December 6, 2006

Scandanavia and Spain are two of the most promising emerging outbound destinations from the GCC, according to Hilton International. Turkey and Cairo were two of the hottest Middle East destinations for this GCC holiday market this summer and European top-sellers included city stalwarts such as London, Paris, Vienna and Brussels, Avsar Koc, the hotel group’s director of international sales for the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman, has revealed. “Barcelona came up as a destination on the top 10 list this summer, particularly as many GCC visitors took cruise ships from the Spanish city,” he told ATN. “We hope the numbers [of GCC visitors to Spain] will increase if Emirates opens up a route there.” Koc, who monitors outbound sales to the Hilton Group’s portfolio of 2800 properties worldwide, also predicted that the Finnish capital, Helsinki, would prove increasingly popular with GCC travellers. “It has the scenery, a beautiful climate, and it’s new to them,” he said. “We have a large representation in the Nordic region, including at least 250 hotels under our Scandic hotel brand.” According to Koc, Hilton’s biggest GCC outbound market is Saudi Arabia, which represents 40% of the region’s bookings to Hilton properties worldwide. The UAE represents 35% of business, Kuwait is 10%, and the remaining 15% is split between Qatar, Bahrain and Oman where the countries’ populations are relatively smaller. However, in terms of online hotel bookings, the market leader is Kuwait, which boasts 35-40% online penetration, Koc said. “In general, the GCC market likes to book through a travel agent; about 70% do so, compared to 80% five years ago,” he explained. The summer season is still the busiest in terms of outbound business, but Arab nationals are increasingly booking several holidays a year instead of one, Koc noted. “Saudi Arabians pop to Cairo for weekend breaks quite frequently,” he said. The Egyptian capital’s Arabic culture proves appealing to the GCC market; a factor that also generated strong business for Hilton’s properties in Istanbul and Malaysia this summer, he added. For this reason, Koc is confident that outbound traffic to Beirut will bounce back in time for the opening of its first Lebanon property, the Hilton Beirut, which is being built at the new Corniche near the trendy Solidere area of the Lebanese capital. A definite opening date is yet to be announced as construction work was delayed due to the hostilities that plagued the city this summer. Hilton is also building a 350-room property in Venice – the Hilton Molino Stucky, – which he believes will attract plenty of GCC custom. “Rome and Milan are in our top 15 destinations [out of the GCC] and we have also had success with the Hilton Sorrento,” said Koc. Meanwhile, Amsterdam has lost its place in the list of top 10 European cities due to the limited air connections between the GCC and the Netherlands, but Brussels is rising up the ranks, according to Koc. “We have found that many GCC families base themselves in the Belgian capital for long periods and from here, they travel by train to other European cities,” he explained.

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