Visitors to the MENA region will total 195 million by 2030, growing at a rate higher than the world average, according to figures by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
The rapid development of the sector will form part of the discussion at the UNWTO & ATM Ministerial Forum at the Arabian Travel Market, which is being held from April 24-27 in Dubai World Trade Centre. The Forum returns to the show repertoire this year, with a particular focus on the contribution of tourism to sustainable economic growth and diversification in the MENA region.
Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director, ATM, said: “The Middle East has experienced huge changes since the UNWTO Ministers Forum was last held at ATM back in 2015. This year will reflect the pace and level of that development, uniting more than 20 ministers with industry leaders in the MENA region to consider methods of capitalising on tourism growth and building a sustainable ecosystem for the sector to unlock its potential within each country’s National Agenda.
“Specific areas of focus will include GDP growth and economic diversification, innovation, entrepreneurship and productivity, job creation, human capital and infrastructure development, investment and export promotion.”
“Tourism has become a key economic activity across the region, particularly in the GCC countries, where it is establishing itself as a pillar and key driver of the modern ‘post–oil’ economies of those countries,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.
“In addition to generating foreign exchange earnings and creating jobs, tourism promotes trade and investment and significantly contributes to the development of other sectors of the economy – such as construction, manufacture, retail and financial services – and it also contributes significantly to the socio-economic integration of countries of the MENA region,” he added.
Tourism has become an undisputed vehicle of advancing the global economy, representing 10 per cent of the world’s GDP, 30 per cent of services exports and one in every 11 jobs.
Press said: “Future job creation and entrepreneurship in the regional industry will be a first priority for the Forum. The MENA-OECD Investment Programme estimates that, in order to maintain current employment levels, between 25 million and 50 million new jobs will be required over the next decade, requiring an average annual growth rate of 5.5 per cent.”
The Forum is one of a number of events in the year-long programme of activities under the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017.
In his message on the occasion of the Year, United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, said: “Tourism has become a pillar of economies, a passport to prosperity, and a transformative force for improving millions of lives. The world can and must harness the power of tourism as we strive to carry out the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
Taking place on Monday, 24 April from 3.30pm, at the Al Multaqua Ballroom, the Forum will be held under the patronage of H.E. Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy of the United Arab Emirates. This will follow the 42nd meeting of the UNWTO Commission for the Middle East which is being held at 10am in the morning.
The Forum will address the following issues:
• Empowering evidence based decision making and accurate measurement of the contribution of tourism to current and future economic growth – particularly as regards GDP, jobs and exports – and its multiplier effect on other sectors of the economy.
• Enhancing the contribution of domestic tourism alongside international tourism (especially intra-regional) in delivering sustainable economic growth from the sector.
• Main challenges and opportunities for securing investment in tourism (FDI and domestic investment).
• Strategies and measures to strengthen tourism’s resilience to external shocks.
• Ensuring that economic growth due to tourism leads to the sustainable and inclusive development of host communities and the transition towards a green economy.
• Investing in technology – driven innovations to enhance performance and improve competitiveness.
• Policies to promote job creation and entrepreneurship
• Strengthening the sector’s institutional framework, engaging and aligning key governmental role players on tourism policy issues and targets and developing result driven partnerships with local and international stakeholders.
eTN is a media partner for Arabian Travel Market.