The UAE’s travel and tourism sector  accounted for 9.1 per cent of total employment, adding around 496,730 direct and indirect jobs to the UAE’s economy, according to a report by World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
It supported around 291,500 direct jobs in 2013 and is forecast to create more jobs this year.
The UAE’s travel and tourism industry is also estimated to grow around 4.5 per cent in 2014, the council said.
The sector contributed around Dhs117.4 billion, amounting to 8.4 per cent of the country’s GDP  in 2013 and is forecast to grow 3.2 per cent per annum to generate Dhs167 billion by 2024.
The travel and tourism sector’s direct contribution to the economy was around Dhs56 billion in 2013 and is estimated to rise by 4.7 per cent in 2014, the report said.
Investment in the sector amounted to Dhs21 billion, which is nearly 6.2 per cent of total investments in the UAE last year. Travel and tourism investments are projected to rise 9.7 per cent in 2014.
Dubai’s successful Expo bid and the Emirates’ increasing appeal as a global tourist destination have boosted the UAE’s tourism sector.
Tourist numbers are also expected to surge up to 25 million during the six-month Expo period, which will be held in Dubai in 2020.
Abu Dhabi too has been reporting strong tourist numbers in 2013 as it exceeded its target of 2.5 million hotel guests last year.
The travel and tourism industry also recorded solid growth globally in 2013, contributing around $7 trillion to the econom , the report said.
The industry contributed 265,835,000 jobs to the global economy, constituting 8.9 per cent of total employment.
“Tourism’s contribution to the world economy grew for the fourth consecutive year in 2013, helped especially by strong demand from international travellers,” said David Scowsill, president and CEO of WTTC.
“It is clear that the growth in travel and tourism demand from emerging markets continues with pace, as the burgeoning middle-classes, especially from Asia and Latin America , are willing and more able than ever to travel both within and beyond their borders.”
But he added that further growth would be dependent on favorable regulations.
”This will require governments to implement more open visa regimes and to adopt intelligent rather than punitive taxation policies.
“It is also critical that public and private partnerships ensure that long term infrastructure and human resource needs are planned responsibly and sustainably, to absorb the inevitable growth that we are forecasting. If the right steps are taken, travel and tourism can be a true force for good.”
By Mary Sophia