The UAE and Saudi Arabia are driving the outbound travel and tourism market in the GCC, projected to collectively hit $57.5 billion by 2028.

According to findings by Research Nester, a New York-based global consulting firm, Gen X travellers from the UAE will drive growth in this sector, forecast to spend $18.2 billion, or 60% of the total market value of $30.5 billion, by 2028.

Saudi Arabia comes in second, projected to spend $11.1 billion, or 41% of the kingdom’s total outbound market value of $27 billion, by 2028, according to the report.

A push towards a steadier work-life balance is what’s driving Gen X, which includes people born between 1965 and 1980.

“Many industry commentators are focused on Millennial and Gen Z travellers, but it is perfectly logical that Gen X would dominate the GCC outbound market value given the region’s demographics, particularly expatriate senior management,” said Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director, Arabian Travel Market.

Blended travel

This lifestyle often includes spending more leisure time with families along with combining business with leisure, often referred to as blended travel or ‘bleisure’, a sector which is expected to reach $300 billion in 2024, according to Euromonitor’s Voice of the Industry Travel Survey.

Hilton Group’s Trends Report for 2024 further revealed that 46% of global full-time and self-employed workers planned to travel for business or leisure this year, with levels varying by country and generation.

In the UAE, 64% are most likely to travel for business or bleisure this year, with 36% saying they are more likely to extend their trips, with Gen X and Gen Z collectively accounting for 45% of travellers to follow this trend.

Wego CEO and Co-founder Ross Veitch told Zawya the growth of the ‘bleisure’ industry is also what’s driving growth in the overall corporate travel sector in the GCC and the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

“With the global business travel market valued at $1.8 trillion by 2027, a significant part of that growth is expected to come from markets in Asia and the MENA region,” Veitch said.

“If we look at this region alone, our data shows 35 to 40% of total travel in MENA is business travel. That’s a large chunk of the pipe and we are hoping to expand our total addressable market to expand this to probably 50%,” he added.

According to Wego data, Saudi Arabia was the top destination of choice for international travel for the MENA region in Q4 2023. After taking the spot from Egypt last July, the kingdom has retained the top spot for six consecutive months.

Rounding up the top three are Egypt and India, which are cited as major source markets for foreign talent and labour for the Gulf region.

Data further revealed that Saudi tourists favour Europe as a destination, accounting for $13.2 billion in market value by 2028, compared with $7.4 billion in 2019.

(Reporting by Bindu Rai, editing by Seban Scaria)