Leisure Is so Last Decade: How Alternative Tourism Is Taking Over the Middle East

Published January 6th, 2020 - 12:04 GMT
Most Famous Spots Adding the Middle East to the Alternative Tourism Map
Middle Eastern governments are increasingly investing in alternative tourism. (Shutterstock)

In recent years, alternative tourism has become a popular trend worldwide, as a result of mass tourism falling short to cater to all traveler's needs.

This trend is especially relevant as more and more people crave new, authentic and personal travel experiences.

Over the past few years, 'the other tourism', as described by many, has gained huge popularity, especially amongst younger generations, who are choosing experiences that go beyond leisure. Tourism for them is also becoming about health and knowledge.

Many Arabic-speaking countries across the Middle East have emerged as ideal spots where tourists can indulge in activity-based experiences as well as cultural journey and historical treks. 

Thanks to diverse terrain and natural landscapes in addition to cultural diversity, many countries are now investing more in less conventional tourism, with many new projects dedicated to serving new traveler needs and providing thousands of locals with jobs in the process.

Adventure Tourism

Daring travelers heading to Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Morocco will find no shortage of activity-based adventures. In these countries, tourists can join local groups that hike through different trails and mountain ranges, including Chouf in Lebanon, Ajloun and Wadi Mujib in Jordan, Mount Toubkal in Morocco and Mount Catherine trail, Sinai in Egypt.



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Overseeing different beaches across the Mediterranean, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Red Sea, summer-activities like diving, snorkeling, and surfing have also been quite popular in these countries. Lebanon has six well-provisioned ski resorts that attract tourists from mid-December through April. 

Camel and horse racing events are often popular activities in deserted areas, especially in the UAE, KSA, and Qatar, where a growing number of tourists are showing more interest in these types of activities.



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Medical and Wellness Tourism

Yoga and meditation enthusiasts are gradually more interested in spending time in wellness retreats that are located in unconventional areas. The number of these retreats is gradually increasing in many countries including Tunisia, Lebanon, and Egypt, which indicates substantial success and a growing demand by health-conscious travelers across the region 

Mineral springs and therapeutic sands have enabled Jordan, Tunisia, Oman, and Egypt to build a number of successful spa retreats.

In Jordan, officials revealed that the country has welcomed about 5 million tourists in 2018, including more than 700,000 travelers who visited the country for medical purposes. 

Events-based Tourism

The Arab World is home to some of the most notable archaeological sites that attract history buffs and culture tourists, but many countries are also planning to attract more travelers by organizing world-class international events.

For example, Qatar hosted the World Club Cup in December 2019 and is preparing to host at least 160,000 people during the World Cup in 2022.

Meanwhile, the Emirati capital organized Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi in March 2019.

Most significantly, Saudi Arabia witnessed an exceptional year in terms of entertainment events in 2019, through which its government invited many notable international celebrities and influencers, in a gesture to internationally promote events held for the first time in its history.

The kingdom is investing millions of dollars hoping to attract about 2 million visitors annually. 

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