Egypt and Saudi Arabia are the most population destinations for MENA travellers in the first quarter of 2018, according to flight and hotel search data analysed by Dubai-based online travel marketplace Wego.
According to Wego’s MENA Traveller Destination Leaderboards, Egyptian capital Cairo led the way as the most searched destination due to its culture, scenic attractions and food, while the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia saw a steady mix of business, expat and religious travel.
This year, it particularly witnessed a rise in domestic travel thanks to increased activities by SCTA and the Entertainment Authority, which has been promoting tourism domestically and regionally.
India followed closely in third place while Turkey stepped up to fourth place compared to number five in the same period last year thanks to halal food, short flight durations and cultural familiarity favoured by regional travellers.
While the UAE fell from number three to number five, Dubai remained a popular destination with MENA travellers.
However, the biggest gainer in Q1 2018 was Oman, which jumped a massive nine places to number 15, largely due to the opening of its new airport in Muscat as well as a number of new hotels and facilities in the Sultanate, in addition to new and convenient routes by its national carrier Oman Air.
The biggest decline was witnessed by Malaysia, which dropped six places from number 10 to 16 as a result of heightened competition from Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Reduced promotional budgets from Malaysia’s side also played a role in the drop. In efforts to reverse the trend, Malaysia is making the visa process easier for regional countries.
On the other hand, Amman, Jordan saw a spike in visitors possibly attributed to the launch of the new Jordan trail and other tourism boosting initiatives, while Morocco saw less visitors due to unrest in Casablanca in the last quarter of 2017. Bahrain also dropped to number 10.
As for European destinations, the UK remains the number one destination for MENA travellers in Q1 2018, with London being the most visited city in Europe thanks to its winter activities, historical sites and museums.
Germany remains the second most popular destination, particularly with football fans and for medical tourism.
In addition, Azerbaijan had a significant uptick in MENA travellers, resulting in its rise from number five to number three this year, overtaking France, which is at number four. Neighbouring Georgia also witnessed strong tourism growth from the region.
Furthermore, with the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia, the country rose seven places to rank as the 10th destination in Europe and former USSR.
It is worth noting that a historically unprecedented four countries from the region have qualified for the final stage of the competition.
As for the Asia Pacific region, Philippines and Indonesia continue as the most popular destinations for MENA based travellers, with tropical beach destinations Bali and Boracay remaining favourites.
Thailand has taken 12th place globally despite unresolved diplomatic issues with Saudi Arabia, overtaking Malaysia to become the third destination within the Asia Pacific region.
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