Business still dominates arrivals
Kuwait’s leisure tourism industry has remained underdeveloped since the end of the Iraqi invasion, despite a revival in other areas. The country’s recreational facilities are scarce, compared with much regional competition. Therefore, Kuwait has much to do if it wishes to attract leisure travellers. Meanwhile, business continued to drive arrivals to the country’s borders in 2012. Kuwait has a strong and expanding oil and gas industry which attracts businesses from the region and beyond. There are also large numbers of expatriates living and working in the country who take frequent business-related trips to regional countries. In leisure tourism, a significant proportion is attributed to visiting friends and family.
International hotel chains expand
Many hotel chains are targeting Kuwait for developments, and a range of new 5-star outlets and international brands were established during the review period. They include the Golden Tulip, the Hilton Olympia, the InterContinental, Swiss-Belhotel Plaza, Hotel Missoni and the Ibis Sharq. There are more developments expected during the forecast period and these will mainly target business tourists, but will also contribute towards boosting the recreational aspect of Kuwait. Across the GCC, leisure-related activities often revolve around hotels which are key destinations for locals as well as tourists. The more hotels that are available, the more Kuwait’s leisure appeal improves.
Infrastructure development planned
Kuwait is engaged in a long-term national plan for the development and diversification of the economy, which includes a number of elements favourable to the travel and tourism industry. Among these, a new airport terminal is set for completion in 2016, which is likely to almost triple the airport’s capacity, reaching more than 20 million passengers a year. There are also plans for the development of Failaka Island into a leisure destination and Boubyan Island for commercial and tourism purposes. The issue in Kuwait is that all projects have been plagued by delays and disrupted by political problems, and therefore target dates for completion are rarely met.
Saudi Arabia key to travel and tourism
Saudi Arabia’s easy access to Kuwait makes it a key source market for the country’s travel and tourism industry. Saudis are more likely than any other nationalities to visit Kuwait on leisure and for holiday purposes, because they can frequently take short breaks to Kuwait and often find more entertainment than in their home country. Saudis are also major business partners and Saudi Arabia is a preferred destination among Kuwaitis, notably for Hajj and Umrah travel purposes. Visa requirements between the two countries were eliminated to facilitate tourism flows in 2010.
A region in turmoil
Challenges stem from the region’s turmoil and the war in Syria, which have destabilised much of the region and caused concern about the future. On the other hand, this has also benefited many GCC countries including Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and is also likely to benefit Kuwait as hotel chains have discontinued their plans for expansion in much of the Levant and North Africa, turning towards more stable markets. This situation has also caused a shift in outbound travel, pushing travel agencies to be more creative about the destinations and packages offered.
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