Abu Dhabi, 8 May 2023:
H.E. Abdullah Al Saleh, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Economy, took part in a panel discussion titled ‘The Future of Travel in GCC Countries’ hostedbythe 30th edition of the Arabian Travel Market (ATM), which concluded recently in Dubai. H.E. Fatima bint Jaafar Al Serafi, Bahraini Minister of Tourism, and H.E. Fahd bin Muhammad Hamid Al Din, CEO of Saudi Tourism Authority, were among other participants. The latest edition of ATM drew the participation of more than 2,000 exhibitors and delegates from more than 150 countries.
During the session, the Undersecretary highlighted that GCC countries possess all capabilities and resources that qualify them as attractive and sustainable tourism destinations for travelers from around the world. These include diverse and rich cultural heritage, picturesque natural attractions, and advanced tourism infrastructure.
H.E. Al Saleh said: “We have adopted effective and strategic measures to strengthen tourism cooperation among GCC countries and promote our countries collectively as a destination of choice for tourists. The Gulf Tourism Strategy, which was recently adopted by the GCC tourism ministers, is aimed at achieving this goal. The strategy is designed to enhance the competitiveness of the region from a tourism perspective and promote its sustainable development, in addition to improving the sector’s infrastructure and the quality of services.”
He added: “We look forward to capitalizing on the destination and tourism boom witnessed by the region to support the sustainable growth of this vital sector and stimulate more investments in it. To this end, we will undertake joint marketing efforts to promote the GCC region as a unified destination and develop integrated tourism packages that cover multiple GCC markets. The simplification of visa procedures, as well as increasing investments in hotels, resorts and cultural attractions and the development of the sector’s talent through joint training programs will add more value to these efforts. Domestic tourism will also be promoted simultaneously through innovative initiatives.”
Furthermore, H.E. Al Saleh explained that the GCC countries are constantly working to facilitate entry visa procedures to support active tourism movement. He pointed out that the possibility of introducing a unified entry visa for the GCC region is currently being explored. This is particularly relevant since the GCC countries boast advanced visa systems that enable the entry of some nationalities without a visa and the issuance of on-arrival visas for some others.
He added that the hosting of international events by the GCC countries is another factor that supports the growth of tourism and makes a significant contribution to the development of its infrastructure in the run up to such events. The UAE’s hosting of Expo 2020 Dubai is one of the most prominent examples. This global event that attracted the participation of 191 countries brought many economic and strategic gains for the UAE by attracting more than 24 million visitors over six months. The exhibition site has now been transformed into Dubai Expo City, an ecofriendly futuristic city that houses many attractions for tourists from all over the world.
Elaborating on his vision for the future of tourism in the GCC countries over the next 20 years, H.E. noted that an array of major trends and developments are shaping the future of tourism in the region. These include initiatives that promote sustainable tourism; diversification of tourism offerings; and investment in digital infrastructure and innovative technologies to enhance the experience of visitors. Deeper cooperation between the GCC countries, especially in visa systems, transportation, and marketing, is also key, in addition to boosting investments in medical and wellness tourism infrastructure.
Other GCC countries are among the most important tourism source markets for the UAE, as they collectively accounted for nearly 9 per cent of the total number of hotel guests in the UAE in 2022. The combined number of hotel guests from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar reached approximately 2.3 million in 2022.