ITB 2024 Special Reporting
Arab World Tourism – The Golden Years Are Coming
By Jabeen Bhatti - Exclusive at ITB Berlin
Tuesday, 12th March 2019

Revolutions, terror attacks and political turmoil have taken their toll on North Africa and Middle East tourism since the so-called Arab Spring in 2011, but over the past two years, the region is seeing a rebound, officials from the region said at the ITB in Berlin this week.

Tunisia, which has remained stable since 2016, tourism is rebounding as Europeans visit its beaches again. Egypt, which has seen continued instability, is also seeing an uptick in arrivals over the past two years, though not to its beach resorts on the Red Sea.

Still, according to the UNWTO’s World Tourism Barometer, international arrivals to Egypt increased 53 percent in 2017, the latest year figures are available. Egypt generated $7.6 billion in tourism income, a jump of 125 percent.

"This phenomena is quite sustainable in Egypt," said Badr Abdelatty, Egyptian ambassador to Germany, speaking at the ITB in Berlin this week.

Tunisia enjoyed similar growth, with a 23 increase in foreign arrivals, which amounted to 6.3 million travelers. And Morocco, the star of the region, saw a 10 percent increase over 2016 with 11.5 million visitors.

Overall, total arrivals to the region increased 5 percent in 2017.

The top performer in the Middle east region, meanwhile, is Saudi Arabia, which welcomed 19 million arrivals in 2017 – many for pilgrimage. However, the opening of the country to leisure tourism is expected to see big growth opportunities in the sector in the future, officials said.

Dubai, meanwhile, saw an increase of 6.2 percent, Abu Dhabi by almost 9.8 percent and Oman a jump of 5 percent. Israel had a banner year with a 26 percent increase in international arrivals. Qatar, however, saw arrivals decline by 23 percent due to a blockade of the country by its neighbors.

In spite of the positive trend, IPK International's World Travel Monitor noted that 38 percent of international travelers say that political instability and terror threats have an influence on their travel planning for 2019. The majority also said they would choose destinations they perceive as “safe,” especially Asian travelers. Meanwhile, the safety image of most destinations only slightly improved over the last 12 months – including Turkey, Israel and Egypt.

Also, even though visitors are returning, officials say there is much left to do.

Abdelatty says that Egypt is working hard to build the infrastructure Egypt needs to increase tourism, with a new airport near the pyramids and a high-speed rail connecting the Red Sea region to Upper Egypt. "

"We have very ambitious plans for the future," he said. "We want to bring more tourists to Luxor and Aswan. "So we have to build the infrastructure."

Photo: Eros Banaj

This is strictly an exclusive feature, reprints of this article in any shape or form without prior written approval from 4Hoteliers.com is not permitted. Jabeen Bhatti is reporting exclusively for 4Hoteliers.com at ITB Berlin 2019 - www.4Hoteliers.com/itb.

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