Mixed Trends in Middle East

Mixed Trends in Middle East
Mixed Trends in Middle East

The Middle East continued to show some mixed trends in tourism in 2013 due to the ongoing tension in some destinations. 

International tourist arrivals remained at 52 million (0% growth) whereas earnings decreased by 2% to $47 billion. The region has a 5% share in total world arrivals and 4% in receipts, as reported by World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

This year is projected to have better results, with a 0% to 5% growth. 

Results varied across individual destinations. Dubai in the UAE grew at a robust pace of 11%, while Palestine (+11%) and Oman (+8%) also reported healthy growth. Other destinations faced declines. The region’s top destination Saudi Arabia reported 7% less tourist arrivals than in 2012. Egypt posted double-digit growth in the first half of the year, but saw a significant drop in arrivals in the second half due to renewed political tension in the country, leading to an overall decrease of 18%. Lebanon (-7%) and Jordan (-5%) continued to suffer from the conflict in neighboring Syria.

Regional Programs for the Middle East 


UNWTO forged several strategic alliances in 2013 with the objective of promoting sustainable tourism development in the Middle East region.

A cooperation agreement was signed between UNWTO and the Tourism Ministry of Libya for the development and phased implementation of a tourism strategy and action plan as part of Libya´s nationwide rebuilding efforts. Under the agreement, UNWTO will provide support to Libya´s Ministry of Tourism in its strategic tourism development through institutional building and governance, sustainable development, marketing and human resource development. 

A cooperation agreement was also signed between UNWTO and Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) to implement a new strategy and action plan. Priority has been given, within the first implementation phase of the project, to the area of legislation, regulations and institution building. 

UNWTO and Casa ?rabe signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance closer links in common interest areas, including promotion of sustainable tourism development in Arab countries, strengthening their institutional capacity of in tourism policy and management, and Spanish-Arab cooperation in tourism promotion and development. Upon forging the agreement, both organizations jointly organized several activities throughout the year, including the high level discussion forum on tourism in the MENA region within the framework of FITUR 2013, the Arabic edition of the Practicum Seminar on Promoting Tourism Investment held in Madrid and Cordoba.

New Horizons

Coinciding with the celebrations of Manama, the 'Capital of Arab Culture', UNWTO and the Ministry of Culture of Bahrain jointly organized an international conference on Exploring New Cultural Horizons for Tourism in Manama. The conference aimed to bring together public and private sector leaders from the worlds of culture and tourism to debate innovative means to widen communities’ involvement in sustainable development, responsible management and promotion of tourism products based on cultural heritage assets, both tangible and intangible. 

After 26 years, the UAE rejoined UNWTO, setting off work on several initiatives including the measurement of the economic impact of tourism, statistics and human resources development. Following consultations between UNWTO and the UAE government, it was decided that UNWTO would provide technical assistance through the formulation of a long-term tourism development strategy for the country. 

UNWTO is also assisting the UAE in implementing a National System of Tourism Statistics and development of a Tourism Satellite Account.