Some interesting statistics coming out of Hilton Worldwide, describing the patterns they see for inbound tourism from the Middle East. This market has always been important for London hoteliers (Hilton included) but new figures show the Middle East is one of the fastest growing markets for the UK travel industry. I will leave you in wonder with the numbers:
- London Hilton on Park Lane has increased its visitors from the top five Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries by 21.34% (2011 vs. 2010). UAE is the top producing market with a 33% increase year on year (YOY), followed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which has seen a growth increase of 104% YOY.
- One in four guests welcomed at London Hilton on Park Lane is from the Middle East (17% of the total occupancy in 2011) and a third of those guests are from the UAE.
- Recent VisitBritain research has found that visitor numbers from the UAE increased by 11% in 2011 (vs 2010). According to London and Partners, from Q1 to Q3 2011 total spend was £259 million (Saudi Arabia and UAE) with an average spend of £1770 per person, compared with £600 average for other overseas visitors.
Hilton go on the explain the reasons why London is gaining in popularity with Middle East travellers:
Shopping – There is a passion amongst visitors from the GCC to shop while on holiday in London. This was made clear from research undertaken by VisitBritain during 2010 – in particular there was an appetite for dedicated shopping holidays that gave access to brands and products that are not readily available at home, such as Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Marks & Spencer.
Welcoming and ‘safe’ environment – London is perceived to be a safe and welcoming destination by ME travellers compared to other European countries. This is also helped by a simple visa process and no significant language barriers. There is a perception that London is cosmopolitan, diverse and open to all cultures resulting in Middle Eastern travellers feeling comfortable and respected.
Historic family ties – Often Middle Eastern visitors have spent time at a British University earlier in life and feel welcomed and at home in the UK. Families will frequently stay while visiting someone who is attending a British University.
Climate – Middle Eastern guests often plan their visit to escape from incredibly hot summer temperatures in the GCC, enjoying London’s much cooler climate.
Socialising & Entourage – Sheiks from Middle East regions commonly own residences in London and often their entourage will stay in nearby hotels. London’s wide range of restaurants and coffee shops offer a varied nightlife and social scene for visiting guests.
Medical Tourism – As Europe’s leading medical tourism ‘hub’, London has around 20 private hospitals and NHS hospitals with private patient units. The square mile of London around Harley Street alone is the base for over 1,000 leading specialists in all areas of medicine. Guests are known to visit London specifically for medical reasons, as well as building this into a wider schedule, often recuperating in hotels following medical procedures.
Middle East travel habits for the UK hospitality sector to take into consideration:
No one segment from the ME/GCC market is the same and the market is defined by different socio-economic backgrounds. In spite of this,there are general patterns associated with geographic origin, for example there is a high population of Saudi Arabian guests on southern Park Lane, while Kuwaiti guests tend to prefer Edgware Road locations.
There is an increasing trend for travellers to use their time in London for a full range of activity, not solely leisure. Middle East guests are increasingly organised with the time they spend in London, with children being sent to summer schools in Regent’s Park, business meetings, property viewing, shopping, medical visits – as well as entertainment. Families are know to also use managers to organise their time while in London, with our hotel management working directly to assist.
Of course, it’s all very well researching this kind of data but the key for a hotelier is to respond to the facts. This is something the London Hilton on Park Lane is doing very well be implementing some simple changes such as providing dedicated Guest Relations teams with Arabic speakers, adding Arabic TV channels and newspapers and even 24 hour room services from an Arabic menu.
It’s understanding your market that will drive your occupancy and create loyal and satisfied guests. Every guest, regardless of nationality, wants to feel at home and welcome, so if your addressable market points clearly to one direction, respond to the need. Right on the doorstep Hilton are competing with so many hotel chains, even specialists in Middle East tourism such s Jumeirah, so taking the time to understand their customers and implementing chance is a game winner for such a hotel as this.
Thanks to London Hilton on Park Lane for sharing the research with Hotel Insight.