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Saudi Arabia’s travel & tourism to see fastest growth in the Middle East

The Middle East has been inspiring tourists to visit for hundreds of years. The combination of rich history, incredible food, and varied culture naturally attracts those looking for adventure. The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has revealed the Travel & Tourism sector in Saudi Arabia is expected to grow at an average of 11% annually over the next decade, making it the fastest growing Travel & Tourism in the Middle East. middle east tourism

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According to the forecast from WTTC’s latest Economic Impact Report (EIR), this annual growth, more than six times the 1.8% growth rate of the country’s overall economy, will bolster the economic recovery of the Kingdom.
By 2032, the Travel & Tourism sector’s contribution to GDP could reach nearly SAR 635 billion, representing 17.1% of the total economy.

The forecast also reveals Travel & Tourism employment could double over the next 10 years, creating more than 1.4 million jobs, to reach almost three million employed within the sector by 2032.
The projections for both employment and the sector’s contribution to the Kingdom’s economy, surpass the ambitious goals set out by the government’s Vision 2030 strategic framework.

By 2023, following two years of heartache, Saudi Arabia’s Travel & Tourism sector’s contribution to the national economy could surpass pre-pandemic levels, when it is projected to rise 2% above 2019 levels, to reach nearly SAR 297 billion.
Employment in the sector could also exceed 2019 levels by 14.1%, creating more than 223,000 additional jobs, representing nearly more than 1.8 million by the end of next year.
By the end of this year, the sector’s contribution to GDP is expected to grow 15.2% to nearly SAR 223 billion, amounting to 7.2% of the total economic GDP, while employment in the sector is set to grow by 16.1% to reach more than 1.5 million jobs.

According to the global tourism body, the Kingdom, due to host WTTC’s 22nd Global Summit in Riyadh from 28 November to 1 December this year, is witnessing a faster than average recovery following the government’s total commitment to the Travel & Tourism sector, ensuring it remained at the forefront of the global agenda.
Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO, said: “Throughout these difficult times for our sector, the Saudi Arabia government has recognised the importance of Travel & Tourism and has led the world in its recovery. Through his leadership, Travel & Tourism will become a driving force of the Saudi Arabian economy and will surpass the goals set out in its Vision 2030 blueprint.
“I would like to commend Ahmed Al Khateeb, who has shown strong leadership during this crisis which has boosted the sector’s growth with unprecedented investments and new approaches to tourism. “I am delighted the Kingdom is hosting our 22nd Global Summit, where we will be able to continue our efforts of showcasing the importance of the Travel & Tourism sector and look ahead to the future of travel.”

Before the pandemic, Saudi Arabia’s Travel & Tourism total contribution to GDP was 9.7% (SAR 291.6 billion) in 2019, falling to just 6.6% (SAR 190.6 billion) in 2020, representing a staggering 34.6% loss.
The sector also supported nearly 1.6 million jobs, before an almost complete halt to international travel which resulted in a loss of 350,000 (22.2%), to reach just over 1.2 million in 2020. middle east tourism

middle east tourism

The expansion of travel and tourism in the Middle East

Dubai represents one of the most important aviation hubs not just in the Middle East but in the world. The city reached this status by attracting travellers from key markets like China and India through direct flights and by easing the procedures to obtain visas. At the same time, the metropolis developed world-class hotels and retails along with other attractions and experiences that aim to attract different travel segments from families to cultural tourists.

Although it could take up to three years to restore the pre-COVID levels of tourism spend in the Middle East, the region continues to move forward on its way to recovery. Two aspects that make a difference for the Middle East include aviation and events. Airlines from the region like Emirates, Qatar Airways or Etihad Airways are ranked on top of the best world airlines’ lists in terms of the quality of the services they provide. These air carriers have the capacity to secure the region’s air connectivity plus they all have embraced measures that facilitate a safe return for international travels like testing travel passes that provide reliable evidence that passengers have been either vaccinated or tested negative before flying. In the same way, the Middle East is a global reference for the MICE industry. Despite the pandemic stopping the organization and celebration of big events, the region shows its resilience by showing a wide offer of them. From hosting the FIFA World Cup in Qatar to the celebration of hybrid events critical for the tourism sector like the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai.

The role and impact of the Middle East’s destinations in the present and the future of global travel is unquestionable. As the comeback of leisure travel worldwide gets closer and new types of travellers continue emerging, this region shows the roadmap to recovery for when global travel restrictions are lift. The region’s response to the crisis that strikes the travel industry is quite clear. Well-defined tourism strategies, investments in giga projects, development of excelsior aviation hubs, organization of world-class events, and the application of measures like easier processes to get visas or the utilization of travel passes against COVID are the main features of the Middle East’s travel and tourism.

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