US-based association for the global financial services industry, Institute of International Finance (IIF) has revealed that the tourism industry in the six GCC countries will recover faster than the other tourism-dependent Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries such as Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, and Egypt.
According to the think tank, tourism in the MENA region will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023. Recovery, however, is expected to be “gradual and limited” and will be slower compared to its GCC counterparts.
Mr. Garbis Iradian, Chief economist for MENA and CCA at IIF, has stated that the preliminary data for the first quarter of this year show that tourist arrivals to the oil-importing MENA countries were the only 25 percent of what they were in the first quarter of 2020, and recent increases in COVID-19 cases in key source markets, including the EU, will push the partial recovery into the second half of this year.
Interestingly, the region’s largest travel and tourism exhibition, Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2021, begins next week in Dubai, becoming the world’s first in-person travel and tourism event since the outbreak. Around 62 countries represented on the exhibition floor such as KSA, Germany, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Thailand, Indonesia, Egypt, South Korea, The Philippines, Malaysia, Maldives, and Israel.
“We expect the five tourism-dependent MENA economies to suffer much longer than the six GCC countries from the negative impacts of the pandemic. The recovery will be gradual and limited in scope, and tourism in the MENA region is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023. Tourists from the EU, UK, Russia and the USA may be enticed by other countries in the Mediterranean region, with low-cost brands (Turkey), or to continue to focus more on domestic trips or nature in countries where they reside. Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, and Lebanon could face repeated outbreaks before vaccines become widely available, limiting the chance of herd immunity before end 2022.”
The IIF cautioned that virus mutations and slow vaccine rollout in non-GCC MENA countries pose risks to tourism’s projected strong recovery in 2022. Furthermore, It has the role of technology in driving a tourism recovery.
“German, French, UK, Russian, and GCC nationals, who combined accounted for more than 70 percent of the number of tourist arrivals before the pandemic, may now opt to spend their vacations in countries where the health system is reliable, and the COVID-19 vaccination rate is relatively high,” added Mr. Iradian.