News Column

Poland eyes GCC tourists

June 28, 2014

Sarah Algethami Staff Reporter

Dubai: Poland is looking to attract more tourists from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, including the UAE, a market that is relatively new for the country.

Last year, the European country attracted 15.8 million tourists, marking an 11 per cent increase over 2012.

The number of tourists from the UAE is small but growing, helped by Emirates Airline's daily flights from Dubai to Warsaw. There were 1,740 tourists from the Gulf country in 2012 from 1,271 in 2011, according to Monika Pasiorowska, senior specialist-marketing planning department at the Polish Tourist Organisation. She did not provide UAE tourist numbers for 2013.

Tourism foreign exchange revenues touched ÂéČ9.4 billion (Dh47 billion) from ÂéČ9 billion in 2012. Tourism accounts for 6.4 per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

Germany, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Slovakia, Russia and Lithuania are the country's top source markets, followed by Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Latvia, Austria, Italy, Sweden and Hungary.

Saudi Arabia is the country's biggest market in the GCC, followed by Qatar and the UAE. Visitors from the region go for business followed by medical and wellness-related treatments.

Poland currently does not have a promotional budget for the UAE, but it is looking to have it next year, depending on the amount it can allocate for the country from its basic budget, which stands at ÂéČ10 million, and the number of Polish companies that are interested in doing business in the UAE, Pasiorowska explained.

"We don't have a big budget so we have to concentrate on countries that have the biggest perspective for Poland," she said.

Poland has participated at presentations and workshops at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM), an annual travel trade event in Dubai, in the last two years, promoting the country's major attractions.

Kulwant Singh, managing director of Lama Group, a destination management company in the UAE, says Poland is a new destination for travellers from the UAE. He has not seen a pick up in bookings for Poland specifically.

Similarly, Manu Mehrotra, general manager of Al Tayer Travel Agency, said that a small number of the company's customers book flights to Poland.

Instead, travellers visit Poland alongside nearby countries, such as Germany, Czech Republic and Austria, according to Singh.

"People are more familiar with Italy, France, Germany and the UK, but countries like Romania, Bulgaria and Greece are not familiar with people," he said.

However, Gassan Aridi, chief executive of Alpha Tours in Dubai, says bookings to Poland from the UAE have picked up year-on year in the last three to four years. He added that travellers like to visit new destinations.

"It will be an interesting destination for Middle East travellers. It has the European weather, nice and cool, and there are cultural heritage sites out there," said Tarique Khatri, senior vice president of business development at travel search engine site Cleartrip. He added that Warsaw and Krakow are the top cities in Poland for UAE travellers.

Poland has 9,775 accommodations, including 308 four- and five-star hotels. Revenue from the hotels stood at ÂéČ5.7 billion last year.

Medical and wellness tourism

Poland positions itself as a medical and wellness tourism destination.

Poland attracted half a million medical tourists in 2012, of those half came from the UK, followed by the US and countries in Western Europe.

Medical procedures in the country are at a lower cost compared to other countries, Pasiorowska said. Some of the popular procedures include orthopaedic and cosmetics surgeries and dental treatments, among others.

"For example, in 2011, bypass [surgeries] in America cost $113,000, in Singapore$20,000 and in Poland$7,140," she said.

Spa treatments are also popular in the country, where there are 200 spa resorts.

The Polish Tourist Organisation has 14 regular offices in 14 countries, including 12 in Europe. It does not have offices in the Middle East.

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Source: Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)

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