According to the June edition of the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) World Tourism Barometer, there was an 18 percent drop in tourist arrivals in the Middle East over the past four months compared to the same time period last year (though complete data for the Middle East was not fully available).
Around the world, there were 247 million tourist arrivals between January and April of this year, compared to 269 million in the same time period in 2008. Africa and South America were the only regions in the world to report growth in tourism. The World Tourism Barometer expects tourism to fall between 4 and 6 percent for the whole year.
The UNWTO says the decline in global tourism is a result of the swine flu (Influenza A/H1N1) scare combined with the global economic downturn. “Results reflect the severe impact of the global economic crisis and all the associated causes and effects, exacerbated in some regions by concerns about the outbreak of the influenza A (H1N1) virus,” said the UNWTO in a statement.
Despite the overall downturn in the Middle East, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria still recorded positive numbers during the first four months of 2009. The United Arab Emirates also bucked the regional trend, growing 3% according to the National Daily. Saudi Arabia’s tourist arrivals were down 60% compared to the same time period last year.
Rob O’Hanlon, a partner at Deloitte Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure said, “The extent to which the global slowdown has taken place has impacted leisure tourism and business tourism, particularly out of Europe, which is affecting the Middle East. That, combined with last year being such a bumper year, means you have a double impact.”
According to Deloitte and STR’s global hotel performance survey, all key Middle Eastern Cities except Jeddah and Beirut have had a decline in occupancy and in RevPar (revenue per available room). Dubai’s hotel occupancy dropped 13.1% and its RevPar dropped a sharp 35.3% compared to last year.