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Travel & Tourism will be critical to the economic recovery across the Middle East

A major new report has revealed the vital contribution that Travel & Tourism will make to the Middle East’s economic recovery once the COVID-19 pandemic has been combated.

Sector grew by 5.3% in 2019, whilst overall economy fell by 0.6% Saudi Arabia named 2019’s fastest growing Travel & Tourism sector globally UAE Leisure spending made up 79% of total visitor spending, and 77% was made up of international visitors

The publication by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), which represents the global Travel & Tourism private sector, of its annual Economic Impact Report (EIR), shows how big a part Travel & Tourism played in driving the economy in the region last year.


During 2019, Travel & Tourism generated $245 billion USD towards GDP, or 8.6% to the region’s economy.

Whilst the overall regional economy fell 0.6%, the Travel & Tourism sector grew by 5.3% in 2019, following a year on year growth of 2% in 2018, illustrating the sector’s continued growth in the region.

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The comprehensive report also showed that leisure travel makes up 83% of total visitor spend, with only 17% being attributed to business travel. When considering domestic and international spend, the numbers are less divided, with domestic visitor spend making up 37% of the total, and international making up 63%.

Saudi Arabia and UAE both stood out in 2019. Saudi Arabia had the fastest growing Travel & Tourism sector in 2019, with the sector growing by 14% to make up 9.5% of the total economy in the country. Travel & Tourism supported nearly 1.5 million jobs, or 11.2% of total employment in the country.


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This outstanding performance from Saudi Arabia and its growth, not only helped to create jobs, it also significantly contributed to the growth in Travel & Tourism globally.

The UAE also saw significant growth of 5.0%, contributing 11.9% to the total economy in the country and supporting 745,000 jobs, or, 11.1% of total employment. Leisure spending made up 79% of total visitor spending, and 77% was made up of international visitors.
Gloria Guevara, WTTC President & CEO, said: “WTTC’s 2019 Economic Impact Report (EIR) shows how intrinsic Travel & Tourism was last year to the economy in the Middle East, supporting nearly seven million jobs or 8.8% of the total number of people employed.

“Our report underscores how vital Travel & Tourism will be in powering the recovery of the region’s economy, generating new jobs and driving visitors back to the Middle East, having a positive economic domino effect on suppliers large and small throughout the industry.

“Until then it is crucial that all governments throughout the Middle East help to protect Travel & Tourism as the backbone of the regional and global economy, which is currently in a fight for survival with up to 75 million jobs globally at immediate risk, with 1.8 million at risk across the region alone.”

On a global level, the Travel & Tourism sector outperformed the 2.5% rate of global GDP growth for the ninth consecutive year in a row, thanks to an annual GDP growth rate of 3.5%. This made it the global economy’s third highest sector in terms of GDP growth.

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The EIR shows the sector supporting one in 10 (330 million) jobs, making a 10.3% contribution to global GDP and generating one in four of all new jobs.

A breakdown by WTTC shows Asia Pacific to be the top performing region worldwide with an impressive growth rate of 5.5%, followed very closely by the Middle East at 5.3%. The US and EU both demonstrated a steady growth rate of 2.3%, while the fastest growing country was Saudi Arabia.

WTTC’s 2020 Middle East EIR report is available here