The tourism industry in the Middle East is expected to recover quickly

The monastery at the ancient city of Petra, Jordan. (Photo by Shutterstock)

The World Tourism Organization shows that  international tourism to the region increased by 157 per cent in the first five months of 2022. Ahmad Abdul-Rahman explains.

The flow of tourism to the Middle East may recover 70 per cent of its pre-Covid pandemic levels by the end of this year, if new global economic and geopolitical crises do not emerge, according to the July survey of the World Tourism Organization (WTO). It also says that there are indications that international tourism will see a strong and steady recovery from the impact of Covid, despite increasing economic and geopolitical challenges.

International tourism recovered strongly in the first five months of this year, with about 250 million tourists, compared to 77 million for the same period in 2021, the survey says. This means that the tourism sector recovered by 46 per cent compared to pre-Covid pandemic levels in 2019.

The Secretary-General of the WTO, Zurab Pololikashvili, said: "The pace of tourism recovery has accelerated in many parts of the world, overcoming the challenges facing it." However, he also warned against over optimism. There were "economic headwinds and geopolitical challenges that could affect the sector in the remainder of 2022 and beyond", he says. 

Tourism revenues doubled twice in Egypt during 2021

Tourism revenues doubled in Egypt during 2021 to return to 2019 levels, before the Covid pandemic. But while revenues grew in Turkey by 100 per cent during this time, but they are still 29 per cent lower than levels before the outbreak of Covid. Tourism revenues in Egypt exceeded USD 13 billion in 2021, according to Egypt's' Ghada Shalaby, deputy minister of Tourism and Antiquities, in a statement made to Reuters.

However, data from the Central Bank of Egypt showed that Egyptian tourism revenues in 2021 were 32 per cent lower than what was achieved in 2019 before the Covid pandemic. The bank recorded USD 8.9 billion. Tourism revenues in Egypt declined by more than 66 per cent during 2020, due to the spread of the Covid virus, to fall to about USD 4.4 billion, compared to more than USD 13 billion in 2019. The sector then recovered about 68 per cent of those revenues in 2021.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine many foreign investors stopped travelling. The Egyptian economy was hit hard. Russia and Ukraine are a major source of tourists to Egypt. Tourism contributes up to 15 per cent of Egypt's economic output and is a major source of foreign exchange. This is in line with the Suez Canal, expatriate remittances, and exports.

The number of tourists to Egypt reached 3.5 million in the first half of 2021, equivalent to the number of tourists for the whole of 2020, according to figures from the WTO. In 2010, the number of tourists to Egypt numbered 14.7 million and revenues reached USD 12.5 billion. In 2019, the number of tourists reached 13.1 million, the figures show.

Jordan expects tourism revenues to rise to more than USD 4 billion in 2022

In 2020, the tourism sector in Jordan recorded revenue of 1.9 billion dinars (USD 2.68 billion), compared to 1.5 billion dinars that had been targeted by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Nayef Hamidi Al-Fayez, the Jordanian minister of Tourism and Antiquities, said in an interview with the Al-Sharq news website that the ministry aims to achieve the same record revenues recorded in 2019 by 2024, before the Covid pandemic. This amounts to about 4 billion dinars.

Al-Fayez expected an increase in tourism revenues this year, up on expectations of about 2.9 billion dinars. He said that tourism's momentum had returned and with it an increase in the number of tourists. Tourism in Jordan is a major contributor to GDP and an important source of foreign exchange inflows.

The most prominent tourism targets for the Gulf States

Saudi Arabia aims to attract 100 million tourists annually by 2030, raising the sector's contribution to GDP from 3 per cent to 10 per cent and creating one million tourist jobs.

In the UAE, Abu Dhabi seeks to double the number of tourists to 23 million annually by 2030. Dubai aims to receive 25 million visitors by 2025.

Qatar aims to increase tourism's contribution to the country's economy to 10 per cent by attracting 6 million tourists annually by 2030.

Bahrain's Vision 2036 is based on spending more than USD 10 billion on tourism infrastructure، and raising the sector's contribution to GDP to 11.4 per cent , thereby attracting 14.1 million visitors.

Oman aims to reach tourism revenues of USD 23 billion annually by 2040, increasing the number of tourists to 11.7 million. Forty per cent of them are foreigners coming from outside the Sultanate

Kuwait is redeveloping 11 major projects in the hospitality and entertainment sectors.

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Sunday, 25 September 2022