02 Dhu al-Hijjah 1443 - 1 July 2022
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Eye of Riyadh
Tourism & Hospitality | Sunday 17 October, 2021 10:27 am |

The Tourism Sector in the Middle East Between Potential and Challenges

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is a distinct home to a very diverse natural environment and multiple ecosystems that make the region unique and attractive for tourism. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is a vast region with many stunning landscapes and distinct cultures, it is a unified world divided by geography It is also home to two ancient culture stoves (Nile Valley and Fertile Crescent / Mesopotamia), where many innovations spread to other regions of the world, including some agricultural systems and products, as the Arabian Peninsula and the Levant became in later a site to spread the religion (Islam, Judaism and Christianity).


The region possesses a variety of natural, cultural, heritage and religious assets such as the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque in Saudi Arabia, in addition to the monuments and archaeological sites belonging to the UNESCO World Heritage Lists in the Middle East and North Africa, and also includes areas With world-leading attractions such as BurjKhalifa and Dubai's Atlantis, as well as luxury shopping malls and entertainment centers, the UAE was ranked as the most competitive tourism destination in the MENA region in 2018 with a score of 4.4 out of seven according to the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index.


The Middle East and North Africa is a vital part of the Mediterranean region with unique physical and cultural characteristics which can encourage tourism and all related industries as Car rental in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, many of which are prominent tourist destinations, while others suffer from images tainted by conflict or environmental challenges that inhibit their tourism potential.


The impact of the first wave of the Corona virus on 



With the spread of the first wave of the Corona virus in all countries of the world, governments imposed comprehensive and severe closures with the aim of limiting the spread of the virus and controlling it, which cast a shadow over all vital, economic and industrial sectors. The sectors most affected by the repercussions of the pandemic that paralyzed the world, including the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, where it had profound negative effects, especially on Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia, whose economy depends mainly on tourism.


According to a report issued by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the number of tourists coming to the Middle East decreased by 57% and about 62% in North African countries, so the UAE authorities canceled the Expo 2020 Dubai, which was likely to attract about 25 million visitors, and also canceled Saudi Arabia's annual pilgrimage of the same year was likely to attract about two million tourists, which left deep scars on the economies of the region.


In Tunisia, tourism revenues declined in the first nine months of 2020 by 60%, and by the end of 2020, revenues continued to decline, reaching 70%.


 One of the sectors most affected by the repercussions of the Coronavirus pandemic is the aviation sector, and the International Air Transport Association has warned that air traffic in the Middle East will continue to decline by more than half in 2020, as is the case in many countries of the world.


The return of tourist activities in the region, accompanied by security and health measures


Following the repercussions of the pandemic, many countries in the Middle East and North Africa have made strenuous efforts to attract tourists during the summer while taking strict measures to control the spread of the virus, so Tunisia reopened its land, sea and air borders last June and allowed tourists to enter the country, and Egypt also reopened Practicing its tourism activities and opening tourist areas to incoming tourists last July, while taking all necessary measures to maintain security and health, which led to the arrival of about 6000 tourists, mostly from Ukraine, Belarus and Switzerland.


Dubai, the most popular tourist destination, resumed receiving tourists in July, Saudi Arabia restricted pilgrims to Saudi residents, and Morocco began a gradual reopening of its borders on July 14, subject to strict rules.


There are many organizations that have worked to develop the structure of the tourism and hospitality sector in order to ensure that the tourism sector remains healthy and sound, ensure its safety and reduce the risks of infection and the spread of the Coronavirus, and the next waves of the Corona virus are considered a major threat to the recovery of tourism in the region, although they may be the safety and security protocols announced by the World Tourism Organization and other tourism organizations can avoid its negative effects.


Expectations that the Gulf Cooperation Council countries will become a center for global tourism


A report stated that the GCC countries recorded a combined 1.4 billion international tourist arrivals in 2018, as the GCC countries gain a stronger position to become a global tourism center backed by competitive advantages that attract international travelers looking for new tourism experiences.


The report indicated that the Gulf Cooperation Council countries recorded 1.4 billion international tourists in 2018, an increase of 6% over 2017, which confirms the successful efforts of the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the Sultanate of Oman to establish a greater presence on the regional and global map.


According to the report, the UAE receives more than 10 million visitors annually, and Abu Dhabi and Dubai are among the most attractive places for tourists, while Sharjah is rapidly increasing its tourist attraction, attracting 1.7 million visitors in 2017.


The strong economic growth of the United Arab Emirates is evident from the booming economic sectors such as real estate, construction, tourism, hospitality, telecommunications, shipping, logistics, retail and finance. The UAE in particular regards the tourism sector and its role in diversifying its economy.


The regional tourism sector is rapidly developing to meet the increasing demand of international travelers. Tourism entities are developing a wide range of options that cater to different types of visitors. Some of these activities include health tourism, cultural, recreational and heritage events, ecotourism, and music festivals that reflect the richness of natural and historical heritage and culture of the Arabian Gulf.


The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council have been promoting attractive elements of tourism on an ongoing basis in line with their ambitious trend to diversify the economy, which is reflected on the ground and confirms the success of their efforts in raising the tourism sector to a new level of growth and competitiveness.


 The report also emphasized the need to strengthen the regulatory and legal frameworks that govern the tourism industry to drive the growth of this vital sector as a primary source of economic growth and diversification, and a key pillar for improving the quality of life in the region.


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