According to a new study by MENA Research Partners, the value of the travel and tourism industry in the Middle East and North Africa could reach $350 billion by 2027. The growth will be led by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, which currently account for around 50% of the region’s tourism market. Both these markets are expected to grow at a CAGR of 5% over the next 10 years.

The travel and tourism industry in the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) now outperforms global indicators in terms of both growth and spending. The projected CAGR of tourism contribution to GDP is 5% for the GCC, compared to 3.8% worldwide while spending over the next 10 years is expected to increase at an annual rate of 4.6% and 5.4% respectively, compared to worldwide averages of 4.1% and 3.2%. The key industry drivers are the leisure and religious tourism sectors. Leisure tourism generated approximately $115 billion in the region in 2017 with Dubai,
ranked as the sixth most visited city in the world,attracting 15 million visitors. The UAE overall is expected to account for 90% of leisure tourism. The region also has one of the highest demands
for religious tourism due to its holy places in Saudi Arabia which attract millions of pilgrims each year In addition to leisure and religious tourism, medical and business tourism are beginning to emerge as important market sectors. Increasing healthcare costs in Western countries are the primary drivers of this growth. The UAE is again leading the way with advanced healthcare centres and research departments enabling Dubai and Abu Dhabi to be ranked 16th and 25th in the global medical tourism index respectively. Egypt and Lebanon are also making names for themselves as medical tourism destinations thanks in large part to their affordable pricing. According to Anthony Hobeika, CEO at MENA Research Partners,the geopolitical situation in the Middle East since 2012 has reshaped the flow of the industry. “Tourism within the MENA region, especially from Egypt and Lebanon, is now redirected toward UAE, Oman and Jordan” he says. “This redirection has lessened the negative political effects on the industry in the region and has had a positive effect on domestic tourism within the countries themselves, specifically in the UAE and KSA.
The region is overcoming the political issues, and tourism is therefore expected to make an impressive rebound.” Extensive use of the internet across multiple platforms has also shifted
the fundamental structure of the industry towards online booking for tickets and tours. The digitalisation wave is having its biggest effect in the UAE & KSA where more than half of travellers book their trips online.

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