Boosting the tourism industry in the Middle East

  • Despite the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism remains a significant long-term opportunity for GCC countries and Egypt
  • Strategy& highlights how governments can launch a thriving tourism sector through a five-stage journey

Governments across the GCC and Egypt must undertake a multi-step journey to systematically strengthen their tourism offerings and take advantage of the long-term opportunity the sector represents once the region emerges from the current disruption, according to a new insight entitled Destination Middle East by the Ideation Center, the leading think tank for Strategy& Middle East, part of the PwC network.

The GCC and Egypt understand tourism’s important role in economic diversification, growth, and job creation. In recent years, they have focused on enhancing their tourism infrastructure and offerings, and marketing their destinations far and wide. However, performance has often not matched ambition. With the exception of Bahrain and the UAE, which attract large numbers of visitors, these countries do not receive as many tourists as they could. The numbers were further reduced by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the scale of the long-term opportunity remains unaltered.

To develop the sector rapidly and establish themselves as a major force in the global tourism market, governments need to embark on a five-step journey, starting with defining their vision for tourism in the country.

Karim Abdallah, partner with Strategy& Middle East said: “This vision should build on the competitive advantages of the country, and highlight target outcomes, including the anticipated number of tourists, the tourism sector’s contribution to GDP, and job creation statistics. Saudi Vision 2030 is an excellent example of this: it clearly delineates plans to offer multiple tourism products and experiences, with a clear goal of increasing the number of domestic and international tourists to 100 million per year by 2030 and boosting tourism’s contribution to GDP from 3 percent in 2018 to 10 percent.”

A second stage in the journey is institutionalizing effective tourism sector governance and ensuring that all public and private stakeholders are synchronizing efforts towards the successful implementation of the tourism vision.

Third, countries in the region must identify the travelers that are most likely to be attracted to their offerings, segmented by source markets and socioeconomic profiles.

Marwan Bejjani, partner with Strategy& Middle East added: “Data analytics and data sharing between tourism sector stakeholders is likely to play an increasingly important role in supporting governments in making informed decisions that allow them to tailor offerings. The UAE and Egypt, for example, have diversified offerings that attract visitors from a diverse set of countries. Knowing that there is a rise in tourists from the Far East will allow countries to take action to cater to that segment.”

A fourth objective in the tourism journey should be to burnish the appeal of a country’s tourism products and experiences and working to ensure that a destination is ready to welcome tourists. This includes having in place accommodation and F&B outlets, tour services and activities, transportation infrastructure and so on; tailored to the needs of tourists.

Dima Sayess, a partner with Strategy& Middle East and the director of the Ideation Center, said: “Countries in the GCC and Egypt are at different levels of destination readiness in many areas, which can give an indication of where efforts need to be directed.  When it comes to tour services, for example, well-established tourism destinations such as Egypt and the UAE have a large number of heritage and cultural offerings. Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, have the opportunity to intensify their offerings in this aspect.”

The fifth and final step, according to Strategy& Middle East is ensuring that tourists are connected to the country by conducting thorough and in-depth marketing and promotion campaigns aimed at raising the interest of travelers in particular source markets, putting in place the right distribution channels to facilitate converting interest into bookings, and securing transport connections to the destination.

As governments follow this systematic approach, they need to be conscious that their

target tourists also have a parallel journey, one suffused with digital experiences. Digital is

an absolute requirement that governments must incorporate at every stage of their tourism

journey. The pandemic has reinforced the critical role of digital technologies, such as by

allowing for touchless, and so safer, travel.

Once the steps are completed, it is important that regional countries review and renew them on a regular basis to reinforce their positioning on the global tourism map. By developing tourism systematically, the GCC countries and Egypt have the opportunity to build thriving global tourism destinations in the Middle East that contribute to their economies and create jobs.

Additional materials

Destination Middle East: https://www.strategyand.pwc.com/m1/en/ideation-center/ic-research/2020/destination-middleeast-global-tourism.html

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