UAE travel, tourism sector to outpace global growth rate

The UAE tourism sector’s growth is projected to outpace global pace with travel and tourism contribution reaching Dh260 billion over the next 10 years, said a senior industry executive. “Globally, our sector is forecast to grow by about 4 per cent each year for the next decade. But in the UAE, it’s higher at 5 per cent. By 2027, our research predicts that travel and tourism will contribute over Dh260 billion to the GDP of the UAE, which is 12.4 per cent of the whole economy,” said Gerald Lawless, chairman, World Travel & Tourism Council, while addressing the 4th Sharjah Hospitality Forum held at Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Monday.

He pointed out that “over the course of the next decade, more than Dh600 billion will be invested in travel and tourism in the UAE in the form of airport upgrades, rail networks, port facilities and hotels etc.” In 2016, the direct contribution of the travel and tourism sector to the UAE’s GDP was Dh68.5 billion which is equivalent to 5.2 per cent of the total GDP. After heading Jumeirah Group for 18 years, Lawless was last year appointed to look after tourism and hospitality in Dubai Holding’s Corporate Office.

While giving the opening remarks at the forum, Lawless said travel and tourism are one of the biggest contributors to the UAE’s job sector. “Here in the UAE, the power of travel and tourism to create jobs and drive economic growth is well-understood and is at the centre of the economic development plans of many emirates,” he said, adding that the sector directly contributes almost Dh70 billion to the country’s economy.

Lawless projected that this rises to almost Dh160 billion when all the direct, indirect and induced benefits are taken into account. “This (contribution) is 12 per cent of the total UAE economy, against a global average of 10 per cent,” said Lawless – an industry veteran for 2 decades. “In 2016, over 300,000 people worked within the travel and tourism sector. And a further 300,000 are employed in some shape or form by the companies which supply the sector. When all of this is taken into account, more than one in 10 of all jobs in the UAE are dependent on travel and tourism,” adds Lawless.

According to Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), local hospitality sector revenues witnessed a remarkable 7.8 per cent increase during the first half of 2017 compared with the previous year, reaching Dh372 million as the emirate steadily positions itself as a destination of choice for local, regional and international tourists. In the UAE, Sharjah aims to attract 10 million tourists by 2021 while Dubai is eyeing 20 million visitors by 2020. Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, chairman, SCTDA, said the emirate is keen to further expand the local hospitality sector, with the aim of achieving the tourism visions of Sharjah and the UAE for 2021.

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