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UAE Bucks Middle Eastern Post-Arab Spring Tourism Decline

UAE Bucks Middle Eastern Post-Arab Spring Tourism Decline

International arrivals to the UAE increased healthily in 2012, reaching an estimated 11 million tourists, delegates heard yesterday at the latest WTM Vision Conference – Dubai held at Reed Travel Exhibition’s event Arabian Travel Market.

WTM Vision Conference Dubai Logo

Overall performance of inbound trips to the Middle East region were down 5% last year mainly due to the decline of arrivals to those countries hit by the Arab Spring, which took place in 2011 effecting countries such as Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Syria.

However, the UAE witnessed a substantial increase with an estimated 11 million tourist arrivals visiting the Emirates; over eight million visiting Dubai, two million to Abu Dhabi and the rest to the other five emirates. All states continued to show the best hotel occupancy rates due to their strong leisure appeal and strong MICE sector.

Of the 11 million arrivals to the UAE, neighbouring country Saudi Arabia made up the top source market for inbound tourism, with 1.5 million tourists coming from Saudi Arabia alone. Visitor numbers from the largest Arab state to the UAE are predicated to double over the next five years to more than 3,000,000 arrivals.

Speaking at the WTM Vision Conference – Dubai, Euromonitor International’s Senior Research Analyst Sana Toukan explained that the UAE offers a culturally similar but more relaxed tourist destination for Saudis and is particularly popular among the growing young population. “The UAE promotes itself as a luxury shoppers’ paradise, with elaborate destination malls, shopping festivals, no sales tax and lower prices than in many surrounding countries. Luxury brands are a huge focus for incoming tourists from all over the globe.”

Another Middle Eastern country to prosper since the 2011 Arab Spring was Egypt, recording a strong 18% growth in 2012, although arrival numbers are still far from the 14 million recorded in 2010.

Also, as highlighted in the World Travel Market 2012 Industry Report, Libya has vast tourism potential with its long Mediterranean coast and Roman antiquities, but it has yet to achieve much progress since the revolution finished in 2011.

WTM Vision Conferences were also held in Moscow, Beijing and Sao Paulo earlier this year, with Rimini Italy (17th October) also confirmed.

Reed Travel Exhibitions Director World Travel Market Simon Press said: “It is great to hear that recovery has been seen in a number of Middle Eastern and North African countries such as the UAE, Egypt and Tunisia. However the danger still remains with the unrest and on-going violence in Syria, which could affect neighbouring countries.

“The content delegates have heard today confirms the growing importance of the Middle Eastern market, particularly the UAE, taking into consideration the pressures and conflicts that countries have witnessed over the last few years. I am sure that the research revealed to delegates at WTM Vision Conference – Dubai will enable them to get a head start of their competitors in maximising their future potential.”

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NEIL STEEDMAN has been a trade journalist, copywriter, editor and proofreader for 50 years, and News & Features Editor for ‘Irish Travel Trade News’ for the past 40 years.

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