With the objective to diversify their economy away from all oil related revenue earnings the UAE government has engaged in a wide range of socio-economical actions. The following is a typical example that could demonstrate the point in case as applied to the tourism sector between countries of the MENA region. It is all about as put in the World Tourism Organization UNWTO Press Release paper after a summit held in Madrid, Spain on 11 May 2015. Excerpts are reproduced herewith.
UNWTO and ATM Ministerial Forum address intra-Arab tourism
A joint UNWTO/ATM initiative, the Ministerial Forum was held under the patronage of Sheikh Nahyan B M Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture, Youth and Social Development and Chairman of the National Council of Tourism and Antiquities of the United Arab Emirates.
“We can all benefit from a common strategy, an Arab tourism strategy, and the United Arab Emirates are committed to support such a strategy”, said Sheik Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, opening the Forum.
“International tourism to the Middle East grew by 5% in 2014 after three years of consecutive decline. These are very encouraging results and show that tourism in the region continues to progress despite its many challenges”, said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.
The Arab market can play a particular role in progressing tourism in the Middle East as it tends to spend more, stay longer and be more resilient in times of crisis due to its greater knowledge about the reality of the region. Participants agreed that although tourism in MENA reveals a diverse picture with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), North Africa and the Levant destinations presenting different tourism development levels, there are important opportunities to strengthen regional cooperation.
Areas of opportunities identified by participants include visa facilitation and easier land border crossings through enhanced use of technology, growing youth and cruise markets, and the development of thematic routes. Furthermore, participants highlighted the importance of a bigger focus on the domestic market and the opportunity to use upcoming mega events, namely sports events, to change the international image of the region and implement new measures such as visa facilitation.
Alongside these opportunities, participants stressed that challenges remain, including the lack of air lift and open skies policies making air travel within the region still comparatively expensive, talent management and the need to promote job mobility, as well as the importance of knowing the Arab tourism market better and adjust product development accordingly.
Participants also agreed that there are important opportunities to work together as a multi-destination to attract tourists from other regions of the world.
Globally, around 80% of the world’s 1.1 billion international tourists travel within their own region. In contrast, only 42% of international tourist arrivals to the Middle East originate in other countries in the region, despite the extraordinary growth of international tourism in the Middle East over the last two decades, and the increasing level of outbound travel from MENA to other world regions.
Another but ensuing World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) organised summit is arranged for the invited Arab Members to come to the celebration of the statutory meeting of the 41st UNWTO Commission for the Middle East, to be held on 13 September 2015 in Medellin, Colombia. And in compliance with the United Nations system’s environmental protection policy, the member countries delegates are requested to bring with them copies of the agenda, etc. documents. We shall definitely review the outcome papers and report in due course.