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Packing On The Up

Backpackers in the UK are poised to tramp around a whole new world

eTN Staff Writer  Nov 11, 2008

They're re-writing their traditional itineraries, replacing them with locations more regularly associated with five- and even seven-star, sheer, unadulterated, luxury lodging.

The demand for adventure and trekking packages is rocketing in Oman and the United Arab Emirates, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

This development comes in tandem with the emergence of budget accommodation and travel in the Middle East making the region a multi-faceted, success story.

Package sales will go up by an average 14 and 17 percent from 2007-12, according to this year's WTM Global Trends Report 2008 in association with global market intelligence firm Euromonitor International. World Travel Market is in London from November 10-13.

The reason for this switch in direction for the stooped-shoulder brigade is driven by the presence of an increasingly young population of UK expatriates in the Middle East. Plus an audience of adventurous western travelers.

The expats are realizing they are on the doorstop of destinations such as Oman and Yemen that have rich and fascinating eco-systems to explore.

Oman's arrivals will be propelled from 1.8 million last year to more than six million in four years' time.

"Governments and tourism authorities in the region should start promoting the untapped adventure and eco-tourism destinations among suppliers and travel agents," said Fiona Jeffery, chairman of World Travel Market. "There are many more in UAE, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and even Bahrain."

Low-cost airlines and environmentally-friendly, budget hotels; youth hostels; and motels all add to the potentially lucrative market.

The pool of expatriates across the thriving Gulf nations multiplies five percent annually. They have disposable income and travel and tourism increases simultaneously.

More than 80 percent of the UAE's three million population is made up of expatriates.

"That means a possible two million are likely to travel once a year. People take short breaks, return home for a spell, satisfy their curiosity about seeing other parts of the Middle East, and this has all played a part in the incredible and exciting tourism upsurge over the past decade," said Jeffery.

Euromonitor International reveals that the outbound tourism spend of nearly US$6billion in the UAE is the highest in the region.

Business is prospering both ways.

Billions have been invested, and that has yielded exciting results with, for instance, the UAE tripling its international arrivals to almost nine million this year, with UK visitors top of the list at 1.1 million.

The report says that budget travel is likely to become a target for mass marketing. Tastes are showing signs of experiment, and weekend breaks are catching on.

Commenting on the report's findings, Caroline Bremner, head of Travel and Tourism Research at Euromonitor International said, "The current trends resonating with travelers across all regions include the desire for environmental responsibility, social interaction, authentic travel experiences, and fair trade practices. In the current economic climate, those companies that adapt and integrate such business practices into their offering will be best placed for survival."

Some expatriates, facing rising inflation, are exhibiting reluctance to travel too far for short periods or spend too much.

Backpackers in the UK are poised to tramp around a whole new world
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