New survey reveals GCC residents’ travel intentions as world opens up post-pandemic

New survey reveals GCC residents’ travel intentions as world opens up post-pandemic
Lake Geneva. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 19 May 2022

New survey reveals GCC residents’ travel intentions as world opens up post-pandemic

New survey reveals GCC residents’ travel intentions as world opens up post-pandemic

DUBAI: As Joni Mitchell observed: “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” That has certainly proved true for travel since the onset of the COVID-pandemic saw worldwide restrictions on movement cause the industry to grind to a halt in early 2020. 

Many feared airlines and hotels would be struggling for years to come, but at this month’s Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, experts were bullish about the near future, with recovery looking extremely healthy. The ability to hop across borders for a long weekend or a summer vacation, or even a work trip — has now become something precious; the chance to escape everyday routine has become more alluring than ever. 

“Travel has moved from something that we took for granted to something that, now, we really need,” Paul Kelly, managing partner of Dubai-based consumer-insight company D/A, told Arab News. “That’s something that came through in this analysis: This huge pent-up demand — the emotional side of traveling has changed a lot.”

Residents of the GCC are eager to get travelling again, as research that D/A presented at the travel market proved. The company assessed millions of social media and online posts with its AI-driven “Sila” tool to discover the travel intentions and desires of more than 2.2 million Arab speakers across the GCC. What D/A found was that while many of the favored destinations remain the same (with one major exception — more on that later), the reasons for visiting them have changed significantly. It seems people are longing for relaxation in natural surroundings, along with cultural experiences, more than they are looking for shopping destinations and material acquisition.

“Visiting cities for shopping used to be much (more popular). It was never as big as the ‘Beach Holidays,’ category, but ‘Shopping’ was always number two,” Kelly said. “It’s now the lowest. Beach destinations are still number one — for instance, since the pandemic, visitor numbers to the Maldives from the GCC are higher than ever. But the ‘Nature and Mountains’ category — so, lakes, for example; think Switzerland more than the Maldives — has become much more popular. And cultural tourism — say, music festivals, art events, and general cultural experiences — has also become far more important, especially among younger people.”

Here are some of the main findings from D/A’s research.

SAUDI RISING 

One country has seen a major increase in interest over the past three years: Saudi Arabia. While the glitz of the UAE — and particularly Dubai — remains in high demand, the Kingdom is now the second-most desirable destination for travelers from the GCC, according to D/A’s research. “Saudi has become a really big destination. That was never the case previously, except for pilgrims, but this research discounts religious travel,” Kelly explained. Clearly, the Saudi authorities’ efforts over the past few years to position the country as an attractive tourism destination have been a huge success. More and more Saudis are looking to take short breaks in their own country, and travelers from the Emirates, Oman and other GCC countries are taking the opportunity to explore the rich culture and stunning landscapes that had previously been all-but-impossible to access.

“This has all been driven by what’s currently open — festivals like MDLBEAST, the Riyadh and Jeddah seasons, AlUla, the sporting events,” Kelly said. “That stuff works.”

THINK LOCAL 

The top three destinations for GCC travelers were all in the Gulf: The UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. This is a recent development, according to Kelly. “The Gulf countries were never really factors before – apart from the obvious, Dubai, which has always been a beacon for the Middle East. But what’s been interesting is the rise of Qatar, because of the World Cup, and then Saudi as well,” he said.

“Khaleejis like going for short breaks — five days or something. And a lot of people, for those breaks, are now staying within the GCC. Saudi hasn’t overtaken the UAE yet, but it’s really come up as a tourism destination,” he continued. “The whole concept of staycation within the region has really come up — people are staying for longer periods too. Shorter stays are much more valued now.” 

TURKISH DELIGHT

Turkey is one of the most desirable international locations for GCC travelers, according to D/A’s research. It’s always been popular, but what the social-media chatter suggests is that people aren’t just heading to the big cities anymore — instead it’s the country’s mixture of “beach and mountains” that is attracting attention, with its Mediterranean areas proving especially in demand.

FAMILIARITY BREEDS CONTENT

While GCC travelers are eager for new experiences, they’re also looking for the reassurance of the familiar. So destinations like the UK, the US and Thailand remain extremely desirable, but, Kelly said, they are now looking for new experiences in places where they may have been several times before. 

“What we found across most of the countries is that there’s a big movement towards new experiences, even in really familiar settings,” Kelly said. “So they like to go to the same places — London, for example, is a big destination. But while they’re in London, they want to do something different, maybe be there a bit longer and go out into the countryside. There’s also an eagerness to fill out itineraries a bit more, do more things.”

FORBIDDEN FRUIT

“People really wanted to go to the countries that closed their borders early because of COVID,” Kelly said. “You want to do what you can’t do, I guess.” China and Japan were the main beneficiaries of this particular quirk of our brains, with both featuring prominently on the wishlist of destinations in the Far East for GCC travelers. China, in particular, is a desirable place for studying for GCC residents, D/A found.


Model Ubah Hassan shows off a custom-made gown at New York event  

Model Ubah Hassan shows off a custom-made gown at New York event  
Updated 28 sec ago

Model Ubah Hassan shows off a custom-made gown at New York event  

Model Ubah Hassan shows off a custom-made gown at New York event  

DUBAI: Somali Canadian model Ubah Hassan took to Instagram on Tuesday morning to show off her head-turning gown from an event that took place in New York.  

The TV star, who is set to star in season 14 of “The Real Housewives of New York,” posted a video of her form-fitting lilac dress with cut out detailing around the chest that she wore to the 15 Percent Pledge gala. The gown featured voluminous sleeves that were attached to a cape with a long train.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by UBAH (@ubah)

Her dress was custom made by Harbison Studio, which was founded by New York-based designer Chales Elliot Harbison. 

“Warning to my future wedding guests: We are having rice and beans on my wedding as the entire wedding budget will go into dress and the diamonds,” Hassan joked in the second of two  Instagram posts. 

“Here is me and my team manifesting to be in a Disney princess movie,” she added, referencing her fairy-tale gown.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by UBAH (@ubah)

“THANK YOU for having us at @15percentpledge gala. You guys are doing amazing work supporting black business, black designers (sic),” she captioned her first post.  

The 15 Percent Pledge is an American non-profit organization that encourages retailers to pledge at least 15 percent of their shelf-space to Black-owned businesses. The foundation conducts audits, shares its database of Black-owned businesses, and offers business development strategies to participating companies. 

Dutch Moroccan Egyptian model Imaan Hammam was also in attendance. She wore a black gown with a long train by Italian brand Maximilian and had her hair tied in hip-grazing braids.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Imaan Hammam (@imaanhammam)

“Thank you @aurorajames and the entire @15percentpledge team for such a well-curated event and for bringing everyone together for such a great cause,” she wrote on Instagram.  

The gala dinner was also attended by Ashley Graham, Lori Harvey, Ryan Destiny and more.  

To celebrate the achievements of Black entrepreneurs, the Fifteen Percent Pledge awarded three founders with grants. The first-place winner, beauty brand 54 Thrones, received the first-ever Achievement Award, a $200,000 grant presented by Shop with Google. The second runner-up, Sergio Hudson, received $35,000, and the third runner-up, Puzzles of Color, received $20,000.  

The winners all received a physical award created by designer Jameel Mohammed, founder and director of Khiry, the luxury brand best known for its afro-futurist jewelry. 


Bollywood comes to the UAE at Louvre Abu Dhabi exhibit 

Bollywood comes to the UAE at Louvre Abu Dhabi exhibit 
Updated 07 February 2023

Bollywood comes to the UAE at Louvre Abu Dhabi exhibit 

Bollywood comes to the UAE at Louvre Abu Dhabi exhibit 

ABU DHABI: Bollywood has come to the UAE as the Louvre Abu Dhabi unveiled its newest art exhibition, on the history of Indian cinema.  

Home to one of the world’s largest film industries, India reportedly releases more than 1,500 genre-varying movies in 20 languages per year.  

“Bollywood Superstars” features a wide selection of paintings, photographs, costumes, tapestries and photographic objects. (Supplied)

Running until June 4, “Bollywood Superstars” features a wide selection of paintings, photographs, costumes, tapestries and photographic objects. A significant number of the displayed items are on loan from the Musee du Quai Branly — Jacques Chirac in Paris, which specializes in indigenous art.  

Indian cinema was developed in the 20th century, but as the exhibition demonstrates, narration and moving images have been present long before the modern era. In a way, the nation’s vibrant visual culture, folk performing arts, shadow puppetry, ancient epics and mythologies — dating back to 2,000 years — led to the birth of Bollywood. Some of the displayed objects represent the celebration and revival of religious, cultural figures, and heroes.   

significant number of the displayed items are on loan from the Musee du Quai Branly — Jacques Chirac in Paris, which specializes in indigenous art. (Supplied)

In the early days, traveling story-tellers roamed around, narrating scenes of important epics. A showcased mid-20th century wooden altar, resembling a toy box, shows on its detailed panels painted characters and scenes from the battle-themed “Ramayana” epic. It almost looks like a contemporary film set, where movement, costume, and staging are in action. 

Other objects reveal deities, taking them out of their temples and closer to worshippers. There is a colorful wooden bioscope that projects with light images of a deity. “Like a music box, a hand crank slides images for viewers to see peering through small peepholes,” reads a label next to the device.  

India reportedly releases more than 1,500 genre-varying movies in 20 languages per year. (Supplied)

Movies arrived in India via the revolutionary French Lumiere brothers, who invented photographic equipment, in 1896. As the years advanced, filmmaking became a weapon against colonial rule, asserting identity. Modern pioneering directors, such as the late Dadasaheb Phalke (dubbed “the Father of Indian Cinema”), were inspired by their own literature and culture, manifesting in their creations.     

The exhibition ends with a presentation of popular Hindi cinema today, witnessing a boom from the 1970s onwards with luminaries Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, and Shah Rukh Khan on the rise. Whether in old or modern times, “Bollywood Superstars” is a reminder of a human need to tell stories. 


American multinational bank JPMorgan recommends Grand Egyptian Museum in its annual brochure

American multinational bank JPMorgan recommends Grand Egyptian Museum in its annual brochure
Updated 06 February 2023

American multinational bank JPMorgan recommends Grand Egyptian Museum in its annual brochure

American multinational bank JPMorgan recommends Grand Egyptian Museum in its annual brochure
  • The bank’s annual brochure lists suggested recreational, artistic, and cultural activities to enjoy during holidays
  • The brochure mentions that the museum of ancient Egyptian civilization will display the complete collection of the boy king Tutankhamun

CAIRO: JPMorgan Bank is directing its clients toward the Grand Egyptian Museum in its annual brochure.

The publication is distributed to the organization’s distinguished clients around the world.

It lists suggested recreational, artistic, and cultural activities to enjoy during holidays, while highlighting the most important attractions and places around the world.

This year’s brochure includes many locations, and among them is a picture of the soon-to-be-opened Grand Egyptian Museum, accompanied by some information about the attraction.

It says that the museum of ancient Egyptian civilization will display the complete collection of the boy king Tutankhamun.

Ahmed Issa, Egyptian minister of tourism and antiquities, appreciated the bank’s gesture in recommending the museum to its clients.

The museum’s opening is eagerly awaited and it will be considered one of the most important establishments of its kind in the world.

The minister said that its opening date will be decided as soon as possible, adding that kings, presidents, and senior officials from around the world will attend its inauguration.

Soha Ali, CEO of JPMorgan Bank in Egypt and North Africa, held a meeting with Issa recently, and thanked the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities for its cooperation, and for providing information on the museum, as well as photographs.

JPMorgan Bank, the largest in the US and one of the biggest in the world, issues its booklet on an annual basis.


Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates birthday in Saudi Arabia with friends and family 

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates birthday in Saudi Arabia with friends and family 
Updated 06 February 2023

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates birthday in Saudi Arabia with friends and family 

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates birthday in Saudi Arabia with friends and family 

DUBAI: Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo turned 38 on Feb. 5 and celebrated his birthday with family and close friends in an intimate gathering in Saudi Arabia. 

His longtime partner Georgina Rodriguez and oldest son Cristiano Jr. were also present for the celebrations.  

Among the attendees were his oldest friends Miguel Paixao and Jose Semedo. Ronaldo also invited Madrid-based reporter Edu Aguirre and wife Julia Salmean, along with his new personal manager and agent Ricky Regufe and personal wealth manager Miguel Marques.

Ronaldo took to Instagram to share a few snapshots from the day, captioning the post: “Thank you everyone for all the birthday messages. Grateful to have spent the day with my family and friends.” 

In the photos, the football superstar can be seen posing in front of a table laden with multiple birthday cakes. Another photo shared in the carousel of images shows Ronaldo taking advantage of the winter weather on what appears to be a trip to the desert, complete with a roaring bonfire and traditional tents.  

 

 

Rodriguez also took to social media to post a loving message for Ronaldo’s birthday. “Happy days to the love of my life. In love with you and what we are together,” wrote the Argentine model. 

After scoring his first goal for Al-Nassr last week, Ronaldo will be next seen in action on Thursday against Al-Wehda in a Saudi Pro League match. 


Actor-DJ Idris Elba to headline techno music festival in Dubai

Actor-DJ Idris Elba to headline techno music festival in Dubai
Emmy and Golden Globe-winner Elba is also a DJ and has performed at venues across the world. (AFP)
Updated 06 February 2023

Actor-DJ Idris Elba to headline techno music festival in Dubai

Actor-DJ Idris Elba to headline techno music festival in Dubai

DUBAI: Hollywood actor and DJ Idris Elba is set to headline the Dubai edition of global techno and house music festival Elrow XXL on Feb. 17, it was announced on Monday.

Emmy and Golden Globe-winner Elba is also a DJ and has performed at venues across the world, including Coachella, Sound in Los Angeles and Output in New York. His UK apperances include Ministry of Sound in London, as well as both the Creamfields and Glastonbury festivals.

A map of the Dubai edition shared by the festival on social media. (Instagram)

His appearance at the Elrow XXL marks his first time performing in the Middle East.

Elrow XXL will be held at Dubai Design District on Feb. 17 and 18.

The festival has previously been staged in 84 cities across 34 countries, including London, Barcelona, Ibiza, Amsterdam, Madrid, Las Vegas, Antwerp, Frankfurt  and New York.

“I love Dubai. And I love playing Elrow shows. I’m looking forward to this one a lot,” Elba said in a released statement.

Apart from Elba, the festival features a lineup of international DJs and artists, including Armand Van Helden, Sam Devine, Sonny Fodera, Alisha, Arielle Free, R3WIRE, Wade and Chelina Manuhutu.