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Tourism to pump $44bn into GCC economies

The total direct contribution of travel and tourism to the GDP in GCC countries is expected to reach $44 billion this year, up 27 per cent from 2009, the peak of the financial crisis in the Gulf, said a report ahead of a major trade event in Dubai.

The annual Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2012 (AHIC) will run from April 28 to 30 at Madinat Jumeirah drawing more than 500 industry leaders annually from over 40 countries.

Unveiling its report ahead of the conference, the World Travel & Tourism Council said flush with petrodollars, with oil prices consistently above $120 a barrel, the UAE, 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 officials and advisors to come together. Investment into the region’s tourism industry is still an attractive proposition despite Arab Spring and the real prospect of a recession in Europe,” commented Jonathan Worsley, the chairman and CEO Bench Events and board director of STR Global.

Top industry executives and officials will be at the summit to discuss investment opportunities in a region where governments are ploughing billions of dollars into tourism infrastructure, he stated.

In the UAE, 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.

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 economic 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,” remarked Amine Moukarzel, president, Golden Tulip Hotels, Suites & Resorts Mena.

The direct contribution of travel and tourism to Saudi’s GDP is expected to reach $14.9 billion, or 2.9 per cent in 2012, up from $10.4 billion in 2009, or 2.7 per cent, as the Kingdom focuses its efforts to provide the necessary travel infrastructure to boost religious, business and domestic tourism.

In its report, the council pointed out that Saudi was spending more than $500 million on expanding its existing airports and was planning a new $7 billion airport in Jeddah.

The direct contribution of travel and tourism to Qatar’s GDP is expected to reach $1.1 billion in 2012, compared to $800 million, in 2009, it added.

Well documented but nevertheless still impressive is Qatar’s infrastructure spend which will dominate the next five years as the Gulf state prepares to host the 2022 World Cup and for life beyond, with around $65 billion due to be invested in new transportation schemes, the report said.

These include the new $11 billion Doha International Airport, the $6 billion Doha port project and a $25 billion metro and railway, it added.


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