Middle East travel and tourism sector to recover by over a quarter this year: WTTC

Report reveals that at the current rate of recovery, the Middle East region will recover just over a quarter in 2021, following a drop of 51.1 per cent in 2020

New research from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) reveals that the Middle Eastern travel and tourism sector should grow by 27.1 per cent this year, slightly behind the global average of 30.7 per cent.

The research says slow vaccination rates in some countries, coupled with international restrictions in key source markets, have prevented people from travelling to the region, hindering the sector’s recovery in the Middle East.

Before the pandemic struck, the Middle East’s travel and tourism sector’s contribution to GDP represented US$ 270 billion (8.9 per cent of the total economy).

According to the research, at the current rate of recovery, the Middle East region will recover just over a quarter in 2021, following a drop of 51.1 per cent in 2020. This growth, whilst slower than expected, is ahead of other major travel and tourism regions such as Europe and Latin America and represents a year on year increase of US$36 billion to the region’s economy.

The data also reveals that the Middle East region could see a similar year-on-year rise of 28.1 per cent in 2022, representing a further boost of US$ 47 billion.

Whilst the local economy has benefited from a rise in domestic spend of 38.6 per cent this year, and a projected 19.2 per cent in 2022, recent changes to international travel restrictions are expected to provide a significant boost in international spending, which is critical to the region’s economy.

The global tourism body’s research shows that international spending is expected to grow by 37.9 per cent this year, driven by a rise in visitors from neighbouring countries which provided a boost to the sector over the recent months.

As this trend continues into 2022 and with more international visitors expected from outside of the region, WTTC predicts a further year-on-year increase in international travel spend of 51.8 per cent.

After a loss of almost 1.2 million, travel and tourism jobs last year when travel restrictions brought international mobility to a halt, employment is set to rise by a mere one per cent in 2021.

However, employment could rise by 8.2 per cent year on year in 2022, providing an additional 470,000 travel and tourism jobs, to a total of 6.2 million people employed in the sector.

“Our research clearly shows that while the Middle East’s travel and tourism sector is slowly beginning to recover, it is still far from pre-pandemic levels in terms of the sector’s contribution to the region’s economy and employment. As we look into the future, the Middle East has strong growth potential following the reopening of its borders to international travellers. We have seen countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE implement policies to restart international travel safely and we hope to see a harmonised approach across the region,” said Julia Simpson, WTTC President and CEO.

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