Tourism set to contribute $44 billion to Gulf region
The total direct contribution of travel and tourism to gross domestic production (GDP) in GCC countries is expected to reach $44 billion this year, up 27 percent from 2009, the peak of the financial crisis in the Gulf, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. In the United Arab Emirates, this figure is expected to hit $19.9 billion this year, compared with $16.6 billion in 2009.
Some of the Gulf state's major tourism infrastructure investments include the $8 billion expansion of Dubai International Airport, as the emirate seeks to increase its capacity from 60 million passengers to 90 million by 2018 to become the world's busiest airport. Top industry executives and officials will head to the annual Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2012 (AHIC), which takes place in Dubai between April 28 and 30 at Madinat Jumeirah, to discuss investment opportunities in a region where governments are ploughing billions of dollars into tourism infrastructure. Flush with petrodollars, with oil prices consistently above $120 a barrel, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have all embarked on aggressive hotel and transport development programmes as they seek to diversify their economies away from oil and boost revenues from the tourism sector. "AHIC provides a platform for investors, government officials, developers, hotel executives and advisors to come together. Investment into the region's tourism industry is still an attractive proposition despite the Arab Spring and the real prospect of a recession in Europe," commented Jonathan Worsley, Chairman and CEO Bench Events and Board Director of STR Global. Complementing its airport expansion, Dubai added a second Metro line last year to connect the city east to west and is scheduled to open a tramline in 2014. Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi's national carrier Etihad Airways continues to expand aggressively as the UAE capital continues to build its reputation as a tourist hub developing projects such as Ferrari World, an amusement park on Yas Island, and Saadiyat Island, home to the planned Louvre and Guggenheim museums.
"The econAmic conditions in the GCC are excellent and hotel revenues are continuing to grow steadily, so we see the region as a key hotel investment destination," commented Amine Moukarzel, President, Golden Tulip Hotels, Suites & Resorts MENA. The direct contribution of travel and tourism to Saudi Arabia's GDP is expected to reach $14.9 billion, or 2.9 percent in 2012, up from $10.4 billion in 2009, or 2.7 percent, as the Kingdom focuses its efforts to provide the necessary travel infrastructure to boost religious, business and domestic tourism. Saudi Arabia is spending more than $500 million on expanding its existing airports and is planning a new $7 billion airport in Jeddah.
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