According to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017, the MENA region has welcomed rising numbers of international arrivals since 2011, when tourism suffered in the wake of the Arab Spring.
The report credited better ICT infrastructure, lower prices, partial improvements in international openness, and some progress in nurturing cultural heritage, as having created better conditions to develop the sector. It also pointed towards future opportunity, noting that natural and cultural resources remained underexploited.
In a report published last year, PwC noted that the Middle East’s global share of international tourist arrivals rose from 3 per cent in 1980 to 6 per cent in 2010 – and would jump again to 8 per cent by 2030. PwC identified five ‘global megatrends’ that would impact upon the Middle East’s T&T industry in the future, and urged the region’s T&T sector to adapt and innovate in order to accommodate this new normal.
The WEF credited the UAE as being the most T&T competitive nation in the region, noting that it continues to offer an outstanding business environment to invest in industry activities. It highlighted the UAE’s advanced ICT readiness, air transport infrastructures, security and well-developed hospitality industry and entertainment infrastructure.
The WTTC notes that in 2016 the direct contribution of the T&T sector to the UAE’s GDP was $18.65bn, equivalent to 5.2 per cent of total GDP. When all direct, indirect and induced benefits are taken into account this rises to more than $43.5bn, or 12 per cent of the UAE economy, compared to a global average of 10 per cent.
Dubai has emerged as the undoubted centre of the T&T industry in the MENA region. The emirate welcomed 15.79 million international guests in 2017, up from 14.87 million in 2016, and has targeted 20 million visitors per annum by 2020, when it will host the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.
According to Dubai Tourism statistics, as of end-2017 Dubai boasted more than 107,000 available rooms. Over the course of the year it achieved an average occupancy rate of 78 per cent, with an average stay of 3.5 nights, and revenue per available room at $104.