The United Nations World Tourism Organisation said annual number of tourists crossing international borders in 2018 accelerated to levels forecast for 2020 fuelled by affordable air fares and liberalised visa regulations. The Middle East countries led this growth, with a 10% growth rate on overnight visitors, compared to the global growth rate of 6%. African Countries are also performing well with a 7% growth, owing to increased demand for sustainable tourism.
This reaffirms the fact that tourism is a key driver of economic growth in the region, as countries work towards diversification from oil dependency. An important driving factor in the Middle East is affordability. The year on year increase in hotel rooms in the Middle East continues to outpace the numbers of inbound visitors. The pressure on room rates increases affordability, which helps attract more tourists.
Promoting the development of Small Medium Enterprise (SME) businesses around the region is something the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is keen on, as this helps generate employment and drive economic growth. This has created a lot more tourism options for the traveller. Apart from the usual offerings of opulent hotels and supersized shopping malls, travellers can enjoy several new options. From start-up art galleries (https://alserkalavenue.ae/en/index.php) hosting upcoming artists, to joining a hiking group on a trail to help children’s charities (http://www.gulf4good.org/en) to even taking a walking tour of the city, by guide who really know the best local cuisine (https://www.fryingpanadventures.com/).
Whilst Brexit fears and looming trade wars dampen this year’s outlook for the growth, more than a billion tourists cannot be wrong. Let’s join them and plan our next holiday.