Providing GCC expatriate workers with retirement and other visa options has the potential to significantly boost visitor numbers to attractions, activities and entertainment venues in the region.

That’s one of the hot topics up for debate at Arabian Travel Market 2022, which will take place from May 8-11 and includes ARIVAL Dubai @ ATM – a platform that advances the creation of in-destination experiences by providing insights and a community for creators and sellers of tours, activities and attractions.

With an estimated 35 million expatriate workers currently residing in the GCC and a sizeable percentage of the white-collar community looking to retire in the region, there are options to capitalise on this situation, according to ATM organisers.

“With the means and time on their hands, it would be natural, not only for these retirees to travel, but also to receive family and friends. Airlines, hotels, destinations and other entertainment venues, all benefit from this additional revenue stream, which ordinarily might have been lost, had the retirees returned to their home countries,” said Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, ATM.

“In addition, it is hardly a coincidence that two of Dubai’s top feeder markets in 2019, India with two million visitors and the UK, with 1.2 million visitors have communities in the UAE, of 2.6 million and 120,000 respectively.”

Identifying this potential, Dubai Tourism, in collaboration with the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA-Dubai), has already launched an initiative called ‘Retire in Dubai’.

A regional first, it’s a practical framework with certain minimum financial requirements whereby residents of Dubai who are approaching retirement age, can apply for a renewable, five-year retirement visa.

“If this initiative is a success, it is more than likely that other GCC nations will follow at some point. Retired expatriates would undoubtedly contribute significantly to the tourism sector, receiving family and friends and continuing to enjoy a quality lifestyle that they have become accustomed to,” added Curtis.

Worth $254 billion in 2019, the tours, activities and attractions segment is the third-largest contributor to the global travel economy.

Mega events such as Expo 2020 Dubai, the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar, plus new and planned tourism attractions in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia, are generating sizeable growth opportunities for this lucrative segment, according to ATM.