MENA to lead global tourism recovery

Guest Writer

The MENA region will lead post-recession global tourism recovery in 2010, a study presented by Euromonitor International at Arabian Travel Market (ATM) has revealed.
The global tourism industry, which will grow1% in terms of international arrivals this year (compared to a 5% decline last year), is far outpaced by MENA, which is on track for 6% growth, the report, presented by Euromonitor’s Head of Travel and Tourism Research, Caroline Bremner, found.
Furthermore, MENA will receive 100 million visitors by 2014.
However, Bremner did stress that it was no time to be complacent and her report identified the steps the region must take to guarantee future growth, particularly in the UAE where visitor number fell 2% to 8.7 million in 2009.
She said Dubai was losing market share to other emirates and that Abu Dhabi would “drive future growth [of the tourism sector] in the UAE”.
To capitalise on the strengths of each, she suggested a “future partnership” between to two emirates rather than the current “power play”.
In this situation, Abu Dhabi would bring a luxury high-end offering to the mix as well as an emphasis on culture, nature, MICE and sustainability.
This would be complemented by Dubai’s leisure and shopping credentials although Bremner did stress that the emirate must diversify its tourism offering further and reposition itself to “move away from its pre-crisis image”.
She also warned that with so many high-end rooms still flooding the Dubai market, we could see heavy discounts in this sector in future.
In terms of future growth for the entire region, Bremner said further enhancing airline connectivity was key and that open skies policies were “critical” for hub development.
She also pointed to the inbound cruise industry as the sector with the most potential for bringing in new tourists to the region after airlines.
The fastest growing country of the region in terms of tourism, added Bremner, was Saudi Arabia, which accounts for 23% of MENA’s visitors, dominated by religious tourism, but also MICE business - there are 440-plus venues.
She pinpointed Qatar, Jordan and Libya as “emerging destinations” and said Lebanon tourism arrivals were robust due to current political stability.
All MENA countries should look to China as an “untapped source of middle-income spenders”, as well as Brazil, to source new visitors.

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