Tourism growth for Middle East

Package deals and discount rates contribute to increase in tourism sector

Middle East tourism numbers slowed but didn’t fall into actual decline in 2010, off the bat of package deals, discount rates and high inter-GCC travel.

Though the sector took a hit from the continuing fallout of the economic crunch, a report from Euromonitor International says the UN/WTO World Tourism Barometer marked the Middle East as one of the globe’s stronger performers, with a 20 percent growth in inbound tourism flows.

It’s in contrast to a 16 percent decline for the same period in 2009, when main tourist supplier Europe was in the throes of economic crisis.

Euromonitor gave a “cautious” outlook for 2011.

It said the region’s tourism economy would depend heavily on travelers from the GCC and even India and China, now that would-be travellers in Europe and other traditional Western tourism sectors are cutting back on expenditures like exotic travel.

“Outlook for the Middle East Africa region will depend on intra-regional travel from countries such as Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, all experiencing positive economic conditions, compared to European countries on a slow recovery trajectory,” the report said.

Though Egypt, Morocco and the UAE would continue to be the most enticing regional destinations for Europeans, “powerhouses China and India are expected to boost both business and leisure travel to the region, thanks to a growing middle class and long-established connections in the case of India.”

It said the fastest-growing GCC markets for inbound travel in 2009 were Saudi Arabia, with 15.1 percent, and Oman, at 7.9 percent.

Read the full version of this story on www.arabianbusiness.com.

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