GCC ministers talk about tourism in the region at ATM 2024

Arabian Travel Market 2024: Spotlight on GCC Tourism Advancements

At the Arabian Travel Market 2024, vital discussions were held about enhancing the GCC’s tourism sector, with a focus on collaboration, ease of inter-regional travel, and infrastructure development.

H.E. Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, UAE Minister of Economy, opened the event by highlighting the significant economic contributions of the tourism sector.

He noted that tourism contributed 11.7% to the UAE’s GDP in 2023, approximately AED 220 billion, with expectations for an increase to 12% in 2024.

“For 2024, the forecast is set even higher, with an anticipated contribution of 12% to the [UAE’s] GDP, equating to AED 236 billion.”

H.E. Al Marri’s speech was followed by a panel discussion between H.E. Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority; H.E. Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority; H.E. Azzan Al Busaidi, Undersecretary of Tourism at the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism in Oman; and H.E. Sarah Buhijji, CEO of the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority. The session was moderated by Dubai Eye presenter, Richard Dean.

During the in-depth discussion, the ministerial panellists explored the importance of inter-regional initiatives in elevating the GCC tourism industry to the next level, while striking the right balance between collaboration and competition between destinations and nations. The planned GCC Unified Tourist Visa was cited as a key facilitator for the region, alongside factors such as sustainability, infrastructure and culture.

Panellists said that the planned unified visa would allow member nations to present the GCC as a connected destination, boosting accessibility and driving KPIs such as length of stay, average spend and employment. Speakers noted they would continue to ensure that the travel industry positively impacts local businesses, communities and ecosystems, contributing to the long-term sustainability of tourism across the region.

Participants also explained that current and future infrastructure will complement the GCC Unified Tourist Visa by enhancing accessibility within and between Gulf nations. In addition to ongoing investment in new and existing airports and cruise terminals, the ministerial speakers highlighted the central role of the upcoming GCC Railway in facilitating and optimising region-wide access for both domestic and international visitors.

Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME at ATM, reflected on the discussions, noting the importance of both healthy competition and collaboration in advancing GCC tourism. The event also provided a platform for sharing diverse insights into the future of unified tourism in the region.

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