Middle East tourism generates $194bn in 2015, 8% of GDP

President and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council says region must continue to invest as part of economic diversification
Middle East tourism generates $194bn in 2015, 8% of GDP
The sun sets behind the city skyline of Dubai. (Getty Images)
By Staff writer
Fri 29 Apr 2016 01:33 AM

The president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has called for continued investment in the Middle East, as a means of diversifying economies as oil revenues fall.

David Scowsill said travel and tourism is already an important sector for the Middle East region, generating $194.5 billion or 8 percent of GDP in 2015 and supporting nearly 6 million jobs.

According to WTTC research, government spending on tourism in the Middle East is set to grow by 2.6 percent in 2016, and 3.5 percent per year over the next 10 years.

Capital investment in the sector is forecast to rise by 5.2 percent this year and 5.4 percent per year to 2026, the WTTC added.

While these growth levels are slightly higher than the world average, the data showed that they are the minimum that is needed in order for tourism to grow sustainably and to ensure resilience for economies which are oil dependent.

In a speech at the Arabian Travel Market, Scowsill said: "Our research demonstrates that rather than switching off investment in Travel & Tourism as oil revenues fall, countries dependent on oil income would benefit greatly from investing in Travel & Tourism, to further diversify their economies and to develop additional income streams."

He added: "It is critical that the public and private sectors together continue to drive growth through investing in transportation infrastructure, funding new hotels and tourism attractions, increasing destination marketing and continuing to improve visa processes."

Despite significant challenges, particularly around safety and security in the region, tourism performance has been strong, the WTTC said.

In 2015, 11 out of the 13 countries in the region experienced growth in the sector's contribution to GDP, with Qatar showing the strongest growth at 23.7 percent, stimulated by investment for the World Cup, followed by Kuwait at 13.4 percent and Bahrain at 7.6 percent.

It added that in the UAE, the tourism sector's contribution to GDP grew by 4.2 percent in 2015, well above the world average.

The UAE is currently 28th in the world in terms of the size of its tourism economy, with a total contribution of AED133.8 billion or 8.7 percent of GDP in 2015.

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