The Middle East was the worst performing tourism region in the world in 2013 as turmoil in some countries continued to deter tourists from visiting, according to the UN's World Tourism Organisation.
While hotels in many Gulf countries reported growth in revenues and occupancy rates, the wider Middle East region flatlined in terms of both tourism receipts and number of tourists.
One major player - Egypt - suffered a 32.4 percent slump in visitors in March compared with the same month last year, state media said earlier this week, as a vital source of foreign currency continued to dry up after years of political turmoil.
UNWTO's latest World Tourism Barometer showed that the Middle East registered zero growth last year compared to a global average of five percent.
Tourism receipts in the region totalled $47.3 billion compared to $47.5 billion in the previous year, down 1.9 percent, while international arrivals reached 51.6 million compared to 51.7 million in 2012, down 0.2 percent.
Globally, total export earnings generated by international tourism in 2013 reached $1.4 trillion. Receipts earned by destinations from international visitors grew by five percent to reach $1,159 billion, while an additional $218 billion was earned by international passenger transport, UNWTO said.
UNWTO secretary-general Taleb Rifai said: “These are very positive results as growth in international tourists last year was equal to growth in income generated by over one billion tourists that travelled the world in 2013, for business, leisure, visiting friends and relatives or other purposes.
"Such results confirm the increasingly important role of the tourism sector in stimulating economic growth and contributing to international trade,” he said.
“These results show that it is time to position tourism higher in the trade agenda so as to maximize its capacity to promote trade and regional integration,” he added.
In absolute terms, receipts in destinations around the world increased by $81 billion compared to 2012.
Europe, which accounts for 42 percent of all international tourism receipts, saw the biggest growth in 2013 while destinations in Asia and the Pacific increased earnings by $30 billion to $359 billion.
Among the top ten tourism destinations by receipts, Asian destinations Thailand, Hong Kong and Macao, China saw strong growth, while the United Kingdom and the United States also posted double-digit increases.
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