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Good news: Local tourism on the rise in the GCC

The GCC remains the number one volume generator for tourism to Dubai, delivering the highest share of visitor volumes for 2016 with a total of 3.4 million, up five per cent over 2015.

The Annual Visitor Report 2016 released by Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) revealed that Saudi Arabia contributed with the highest number of travellers among the GCC countries. It was followed by Oman, with Kuwait in third place and Qatar in fourth, both retaining their top 20 status.

Oman’s sizeable contribution to the 14.9m overnight visitors to Dubai last year places it in fourth spot among the emirate’s top ten source markets, with India (1.8m), Saudi Arabia (1.6m) and the UK (1.2m) leading the list.

Issam Kazim, CEO, Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, said, “The rising popularity of Dubai as a destination of choice reflects our relentless investments in building a vibrant tourism offering for visitors from across the region and beyond, as well as our concerted efforts to promote the Arabian heritage.’

Tourism sector requires regional cooperation

Tourism can be a key driver of the growth and economic diversification for the Middle East and North Africa region, concluded the 2017 Ministerial Forum organised by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) last week.

Yet, maximising the power of the sector requires increased regional cooperation, prioritisation of tourism in the national agendas and building resilience and sustainability.

Repeat travellers need to be engaged

Moderated by CNN’s Becky Anderson, the UNWTO/ATM Ministerial Forum concluded that the main priorities for the region include human resources development, public/private sector cooperation connectivity, technology and sustainability.

Issues highlighted included the development of domestic tourism by engaging repeat travellers, the support to innovation and entrepreneurship, the need to improve the quality and ‘perception’ of tourism employment, visa facilitation, intra-regional connectivity and the measurement of tourism’s impact through the recently launched UNWTO Initiative on Measuring Sustainable Tourism (MST).

Participants further recalled that much of the growth of the sector comes from the high level of support at policy level it receives from many countries in the region as a tool to diversify oil-based economies.

Tourism is a top priority for governments

Mohammed Khamis Al Muhairi, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Economy, UAE, said that tourism has proven to be one of the main pillars of economic and social development in various countries.

He pointed out that the MENA region has strong potential to become one of the world’s leading tourist destinations due to its extensive tourism attractions.

He said: “Tourism is a top priority under the development policies of the UAE. The sector contributes 12.1 per cent to the national GDP and accounts for around 10.4 per cent of the domestic labour market.”

“Investments to the sector exceeded AED26bn in 2016, a year which saw the number of visitors to the UAE reaching 24.8 million with total spend of about AED110 billion”, he added.

MENA is tourism’s biggest success story

UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said: “Despite all external shocks, the Middle East and North Africa tell one of tourism’s biggest success stories. It is a story that brings an immense opportunity to make tourism a pillar of economic diversification, job creation and sustainable development in this region.”

“Today’s meeting is an opportunity to identify the priorities of tourism policy for the MENA destinations, and prepare the region to welcome the 195m international tourist arrivals – almost triple the present volume of 72m – forecast by UNWTO for 2030,” he added.

The Middle East received 53.6m international tourist arrivals in 2016. Arrivals decreased an estimated four per cent with very mixed results among the region’s destinations. International tourist arrivals to North Africa grew by three per cent to 18.6m.