UAE travel & tourism spending highest in GCC region at $27.4bln

The UAE remains the top destination for travel and tourism in the region, with visitor expenditures reaching nearly $30 billion in 2021 alone, according to a new Alpen Capital report. uae tourism


Leisure and business visitors in the UAE spent a total of $27.4 billion in 2021, the highest among the GCC markets, Alpen Capital said in its latest GCC Hospitality Report.

uae tourism - GCC hospitality

Saudi Arabia came second with total spending pegged at $22.2 million, followed by Qatar ($16.5 billion), Kuwait ($5.5 billion), Oman ($2.5 billion) and Bahrain ($3 billion).

Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia cumulatively accounted for more than 64% of the total travel and tourism spending within the region last year.
While leisure represented the biggest chunk of the travel and tourism spending, the share of business tourism in the UAE, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, has been witnessing a significant rise.  This was largely driven by the government’s efforts to promote their markets as a leading destination for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions, according to Alpen Capital.

Sports events in the region UAE tourism

Business confidence in the region is bouncing back quicker with the reopening of borders and easing of travel restrictions. GCC is fast becoming a global center for business, entertainment, and sporting events, and is set to host major events like FIFA World Cup 2022, Formula 1 Grand Prix, World Aquatics Championship, Geneva International Motor Show Qatar, Asian Games, etc. Moreover, improvements in per capita income will increase domestic consumer demand which will continue to help boost the tourism sector. GCC countries are also upgrading their transportation ecosystem, from expanding airport capacity to adopting Hyperloop-based transport and a new railway corridor. They have been actively investing in developing tourism-related infrastructure while promoting leisure destinations. Saudi Arabia, especially, has undertaken several socio-economic reforms to make the Kingdom more modern, liberal, and business and tourism friendly to increase its attractiveness for international tourists.

Leisure tourism spending

The UAE also had the highest share of the total leisure tourism spending in the region last year at 34.1%, followed by Saudi Arabia (33.2%) and Qatar (19.8%).

Visitor traffic to the UAE has been rising on the back of easing COVID-19 restrictions.

From January to July, the number of international visitors arriving in Dubai alone nearly tripled to 8.1 million from 2.85 million a year ago.

“The growth in the region’s hospitality sector has been incredible with destinations increasingly opening up their borders and heavily investing in their travel and tourism efforts,” noted Ghazi Mousharafieh, Chief Financial Officer, Rotana Hotel Management Corporation, UAE.

“In the UAE alone, the recovery has been tremendous particularly due to the impact of [Expo 2020] that further established the country as a safe travel destination,” Mousharafieh wrote in the report.

Religious tourism UAE tourism

Religious tourism continues to play a significant role and growth in the number of pilgrims has compelled Saudi Arabia to offer a wide range of hospitality services. Other states are adopting distinct models of engagement between heritage and religious spheres to attract tourism. Going forward the Middle East hospitality industry is expected to emerge stronger from the crisis, ahead of its peers.

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