According to Preferred Hotels & Resorts, Gulf residents spinning the globe in search of exciting destinations in which to enjoy summer breaks are being drawn to Southeast Asia with direct air routes, the affordability factor, cooler temperatures and an ample choice of accommodation options all coming into play.

Thailand, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Malaysia hold sway as some of the most popular destinations for Middle East travellers with healthy inbound tourism figures in 2015, and strong demand in 2016 to date.

“UNWTO and World Travel & Tourism Council figures put Southeast Asia tourist arrivals growth ahead of the rest of the world in 2015, up 7.9% year-on-year, outpacing India and China in 2015,” said Saurabh Rai, Executive Vice President of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, the world’s largest independent hotel brand.

“We are definitely seeing this reflected in demand for our member hotels in the region as well as positively impacting traveller spend. Further, MasterCard’s Asia Pacific Destinations Index 2015 report listed eight Southeast Asian countries in its top 20 Asia Pacific ranking of most popular destinations in terms of arrival numbers, which is great news for Preferred Hotels & Resorts as we continue to expand our regional portfolio,” he added.

Tourism Authority of Thailand data recorded over half-a-million visitors from the Middle East last year, led by tourists from the UAE followed by Oman, with an average stay of just under 12 days the year previously and daily spend of US$171 versus just 9.8 days and US$148 from other nationalities.

Preferred Hotels & Resorts’ Southeast Asian partner properties include The Siam, one of Bangkok’s most luxurious five-star hotels, set in three acres of landscaped greenery on the Chao Phraya River. The hotel offers guests access its own private boat shuttle, spa, unique Art Deco-inspired décor, and 24/7 butler service.

Despite subdued tourism performance over the last couple of years, Malaysia continues to attract visitors from the Gulf countries, largely due to its halal tourism offering, making it the preferred Southeast Asian destination for almost 100,000 Saudis in 2015 according to the Malaysia Ministry of Tourism & Culture, followed by the UAE with 15,769 visitors.

Popular with high-end travelers to Malaysia, the boutique Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa in Kota Kinabalu is home to just 47 timbered villas fronted by a pristine white sand beach and coral reef for the ultimate tropical paradise getaway.

“The Middle East enjoys excellent air connectivity with key Southeast Asian destinations and although Europe is always a popular option for summer travel, the cost-value equation can make it expensive, especially for family travel. Heading eastwards means that travellers can ‘splurge’ on a luxury hotel stay while enjoying all the benefits of affordable activities including excursions, shopping and dining, in some of the region’s most dynamic cities or ultra-relaxing beach resorts,” said Rai.

Other destinations high on the demand radar include Singapore, a hub for both business and leisure travel, which saw 3.9% growth from UAE visitors in 2015, reaching 78,693 arrivals, according to its tourism board.