Middle East tourism readies for recovery

SINGAPORE, 7 March 2022: New research from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) reveals travel & tourism sector earnings in the Middle East could reach USD246 billion this year, just 8.9% behind pre-pandemic levels.

In 2019, before the pandemic struck and began to devastate economies worldwide, the travel & tourism sector in the Middle East was booming, generating USD270 billion to the region’s economy.

However, in 2020, when Covid-19 brought international travel to an almost complete standstill, its contribution more than halved, plummeting 51.1%, suffering a brutal loss of more than USD138 billion.

The latest research from WTTC shows that as the region continues to recover from the pandemic, with major markets reopening borders and easing restrictions to travel, the sector’s contribution to employment could almost reach pre-pandemic levels this year.

WTTC noted that if countries continue to roll out the inoculation programme at pace this year and international travel restrictions are eased around the world – 6.8m people could be employed in the sector by the end of 2022, just 40,000 behind pre-pandemic levels.

WTTC president and CEO Julia Simpson said: “The Covid-19 pandemic caused significant losses to the Middle East’s Travel & Tourism sector, but we now have a reason for real optimism.

“Since the start of the pandemic, governments across the Middle East have shown a real commitment to travel and tourism. Saudi Arabia, in particular, has shown strong leadership throughout the crisis and is making a major investment in travel & tourism.”

To reach close to pre-pandemic levels this year, WTTC says governments around the world must continue focusing on the vaccine rollout and allowing fully vaccinated travellers to move freely.

The global tourism body also urges governments in the Middle East and around the world to ditch the patchwork of restrictions and enable international travel using digital solutions that allow travellers to prove their status in a fast, simple and secure way.