Italy vies for UAE tourists

Italy vies for UAE tourists

With an annual vacation spend of $6.6 billion a year — about $22,000 per head — UAE residents are one of the most in-demand tourists in the world, and one country vying for their custom is Italy.


Kelly Clarke

Published: Tue 10 Sep 2013, 3:37 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 8:24 PM

Rome, Milan, Venice and Florence are currently Italy’s top four destinations, but Sardinia (above) will soon be added to the list. — Newscom

According to the World Tourism Organisation, a growing population, higher income and a good geographical location make the UAE one of the most important outbound travel markets in the world.

Speaking to Khaleej Times during a Press conference in Italy recently, Sardinia President Ugo Cappellacci said the UAE has a perfect platform for promoting Italy as the destination of choice for residents here.

“There is an interesting market [in the UAE] for our product and it is a country that welcomes development and relations with other countries.”

Cappellacci said bringing more UAE tourists into Italy would also help strengthen ties between the two countries. During a trip to the UAE last month, he said Sardinia was 100 per cent behind the idea of ending the visa requirement for Emiratis into the Schengen area, as it would “benefit both the UAE and Europe”.

The leader of the autonomous Italian region said his trip included discussions on eco-friendly projects and possible tie-ups between the UAE and Sardinia in the future. However, he did not unveil any concrete agreements.

With Sardinia’s economy previously focused on heavy industry, Cappellacci said they are now keen to turn their attention to renewable energy, adding the possibilities in the UAE to promote these kinds of projects are “endless”.

“We are looking towards our research centres here [in Sardinia], which are committed to the field and we hope the two regions can work close together in the future,” he said.

The UAE and Italy already share close ties when it comes to imports and exports, with Italy noted as the third-largest European importer of goods from the UAE, behind Germany and the UK, and the eighth-largest exporter of goods in the world to the UAE.

At the end of the first trimester of 2013, Italy saw an increase of 10.5 per cent on all exports to the UAE compared to the same period in 2012, with the top three goods being machinery — which brought in €1.3 billion — jewellery, and metal and oil.

According to PhoCusWright, a global travel market research company, the amount spent on tourism in the Middle East is expected to double from $4.8 billion in 2011 to $9.5 billion in 2014.

Andrea Babbi, director-general of Enit, Italy’s national tourism agency, told Khaleej Times that the UAE’s “very high spending capacity” when it comes to vacationing made it an “important and booming market” for Italian tourism.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Horse Country Endurance Cup in Sardinia — part of the Sardegna Endurance Lifestyle 2013 event hosted by the Italian Industry and Commerce Office in the UAE, or IICUAE, and organised by — Babbi said developing Italy’s tourism opportunities with the UAE was one of the key drivers behind Enit’s and IICUAE’s goals.

And with Rome, Milan, Venice and Florence, currently marked as the country’s top four destinations, they are intent on adding Sardinia to the list.

During the week-long Sardegna Endurance Lifestyle event, a workshop hosting seven UAE tour operators and 30 Italian operators from the tourism sector, mainly hotels and resorts, saw over 200 business-to-business meetings take place and in reference to its appeal to tourists, Babbi said Italy offers the perfect combination of big brand luxury with total relaxation.

“It will be important and useful to unite some of our more popular destinations like Milan and Rome, with our more undiscovered parts like Sardinia,” he said, adding that people should spend a week in one of the main cities, shopping and seeing the sights, before taking a short flight to the Mediterranean’s second-largest island for a week of idyllic relaxation.

“In Sardinia, everyone feels like a Shaikh,” he said.

Babbi also stressed the link between Sardinia and Expo 2015 to be held in Milan, adding that the event would be a good tool for promoting the region to exhibitors and visitors from all over the world.

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