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Tue 31 Aug 2010 01:15 PM

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Kuwait tourism has fallen 'into oblivion' - travel agent

Lack of proper strategy means tourism contributes just 3.7% to Kuwait's GDP.

Kuwait tourism has fallen 'into oblivion' - travel agent
KUWAIT BEACH: A sign prohibiting swimming and fishing in the sea is seen at one of the main beaches in Kuwait City. (Getty Images)

The lack of a coherent tourism strategy by the Kuwaiti government has dragged the sector “into oblivion”, an executive from the largest travel management company in the Middle East told Arabian Business.

Last week, HE Sheikh Mubarak AM Al Sabah, chairman of Kuwait-based hotelier Action Hotels told Arabian Business that there was
“limited tourism in Kuwait”

due to a lack of promotion and infrastructural support by the government.

“We are a very liberal country and no different from any other GCC state but we are not promoted. The lack of infrastructure is not there to attract tourists to be a hub,” he added.

The
story

led to a heated debate on the
ArabianBusiness.com

website and the sentiment has now been echoed by Sunil D'souza, a regional travel manager at Kanoo Travel, the largest travel management company in the Middle East.

D'souza agreed that “the lack of governmental interest or active participation in the segment… has dragged the tourism into oblivion.”

He added that it was time for the Gulf state to put action a serious strategy to develop the sector and to attract more international visitors.

The Kuwaiti government tried once before to boost its fledgling tourism industry launching five years ago a 20-year plan in association with the World Tourism Organisation. The aim was develop new resorts and hotels and the Kuwaiti Hotel Owner Association forecast that more than 3,000 rooms would enter the market over the following five years.

“While tourism has not traditionally been considered a strategic development priority by the Government of Kuwait, there have recently been positive signs of change,” Amr Abdel Ghaffar, regional director for the Middle East at the UNWTO, told Arabian Business on Tuesday.

“This includes the establishment of a General Tourism Authority, under the umbrella of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, to devise, with the assistance of UNWTO, a comprehensive strategy and action plan for the sustainable development and promotion of the sector,” he added.

However, the sector’s performance has been poor and the results have not materialised. Travel and tourism contributes just 3.7 percent to Kuwait’s total GDP and research company Euromonitor International expects this to fall to around three percent by 2019.

“It’s a great country with wonderful people and down the line dependency on oil revenues alone will not help things move in the longer horizon. Like UAE, Kuwait should also diversify into other industries and tourism would be one of the key drivers to focus with,” D'souza said.

It is also expected that tourism related employment will slump from 71,000 jobs in 2009 to 65,000 jobs in 2019. The Euromonitor data showed that in 2009 just over $400m was contributed by incoming tourists to the Kuwait economy.

This is unlikely to change in the near future as in May the Dubai-based research company Proleads reported there are currently more than 470 active hotel projects in the Gulf. However, only 27, or 5.7 percent, of these were planned in Kuwait, compared to 258 in the UAE, 83 in Saudi Arabia and 35 in Bahrain.

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Mohammed Azad Hossain 9 years ago

Well said Mr. D'souza. You are right that "Tourism" is not in Kuwait Govt priority list. Kuwait has great potential in Tourism backed by its sustainable economic growth. It can be devloped if Kuwait Govt include the sector in its starategic development priority schedule.

John Mackay 9 years ago

Lets be honest about this, Kuwait has no particular desire to diversify its economy...lots of words but no action. As I have said previously in these comment sections, the only way real change is going to happen in Kuwait is if the oil price dips to a really low level for a sustained period of time...this will then make those with their fingers on power realise that change has to happen....as long as they keep posting budget surplusses the view will be "well its not broken so no need to fix it"....

Ex-Expat 9 years ago

Please.... Who is putting it in the head of these people, that there is a potential for tourism? Not every country can do anything, just except it. Its a boring hot place in the desert and thats it.

Biggles 9 years ago

" For sure no Western tourists." No surprise there really, western tourist go abroad to relax and have fun in the sun, who wants to go to somewhere full of constricting rules and regulations, not me! Europe offers so much more to see and do and all in a relaxed enviroment. Stick to your oil fields!

sonnydubai 9 years ago

i think you are all being unfair. It is the perfect place to go camel watching, sand castle building, watch paint drying etc.....I have loved my time in Kuwait staring at my hotel room walls

Colonel Klink 9 years ago

But the people are soooooo friendly and humble.....

Ex-Expat 9 years ago

Here is the solution for Kuwait: Man made islands, them parks, oversized malls, tallest building, worlds biggest camel ear... Errrmm, wait a moment, who went down that road and is now in debt...?

Paolo C 9 years ago

Why should a tourist decide to go to a country without any archeological interest, without any real entertaniment under the burning sun unless he is looking for self punishment.