Inbound visitor growth in the Middle East 2011-2024
MENA tourism typesTourism in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region reached approximately six percent of the total worldwide tourist arrivals in 2018 according to United Nations World Tourism Organization. The number of tourism arrivals in the MENA region in 2018 exceeded 60 million, of which 15.8 million were received in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Tourism is one of the main pillars on which the MENA economies depend on. The efforts to diversify their oil-based economies have placed further importance on the tourism industry. Tourism in the MENA region includes business, leisure, health and wellness, religious, cultural, and shopping tourism. Morocco was the leading country in wellness tourism in 2015 with about 2.5 million visitors.
The MENA region has a variety of natural, cultural, heritage, and religious assets such as the Giza Pyramids in Egypt and the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. In addition to the MENA region’s UNESCO World Heritage Lists’ ancient monuments and archaeological sites, they also have world-leading man-made attractions such as the Burg Khalifa and Atlantis City in Dubai, as well as lavish malls and shopping centers. The UAE was rated the most competitive tourism destination in the MENA region in 2018 with a score of 4.4 out of seven points according to the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index.
MENA tourism trendsThe emirate of Dubai in the UAE had the highest value of international tourist receipts of more than 21 billion U.S. dollars in 2018. The total value for the entire MENA region was 73 billion U.S. dollars. The most popular online travel company among MENA region tourists in 2018 was booking.com. Tourism arrivals in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries were expected to surpass 64.3 million tourists by 2020.
The contribution of the industry to the MENA job market was projected to reach 7.2 million jobs by 2028. However, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic affected the travel and tourism sector significantly. More than 60 percent of business owners in the Gulf Cooperation Council in that year reported their businesses being impacted by travel difficulties and restrictions).