Monday, May 27, 2024

UAE travel & tourism sector GDP share to hit $64bn

The UAE’s Travel and Tourism sector will continue to grow at pace in 2024 with its GDP contribution set to reach over AED236 billion ($64.26 billion) from AED220 billion last year, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) 2024 Economic Impact Research (EIR).

Jobs will increase by more than 23,500 to reach nearly 833,000. International visitor spending is projected to grow by nearly 10 percent to reach AED192 billion and domestic visitor spending is forecast to increase by 4.3 percent to reach almost AED58 billion, said the WTTC research.

The EIR has revealed a record-breaking year for Travel and Tourism in the UAE last year, with new records achieved across key metrics including the sector’s GDP contribution, jobs and visitor spend.

Last year, the sector grew by more than a quarter (26 percent) to contribute a record AED220 billion to the UAE’s GDP, representing 11.7 percent of the entire economy. This exceeded the previous record set in 2019 by almost 15 percent and underscores the sector’s pivotal role in the nation’s economic framework, says the report.

Jobs supported by Travel and Tourism sector grew by 41,000 to reach more than 809,000, representing one in nine jobs in the country. With the jobs lost during the pandemic fully recovering in 2022, the new finding shows sector jobs have now increased 11 percent since the 2019 highpoint.

While domestic visitor spending fully recovered in 2022, it continued to grow last year to reach more than AED55.5 billion, which is almost 40 percent higher than 2019.

International visitor spending surged by almost 40 percent in 2023 to reach over AED175 billion, 12 percent above 2019 levels, reflecting the UAE’s enduring appeal as a top global tourism destination, it said.

Across the Middle East

The Middle Eastern Travel an Tourism sector grew by more than 25 percent in 2023 to reach almost $460 billion. Jobs reached nearly 7.75 million and international spending grew by 50 percent to reach $179.8 billion. Domestic visitor spending grew by 16.5 percent to reach more than $205 billion, the report said.

 WTTC is forecasting that Travel & Tourism across the region will continue to grow throughout 2024 with the GDP contribution set to reach $507 billion. Jobs are forecast to reach 8.3 million, international visitor spending is forecast to reach $198 billion and domestic visitor spending is expected to reach more than $224 billion.

A cornerstone of economy

Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO said: “The UAE’s Travel & Tourism sector has not only recovered; it soared to new heights, establishing itself as a cornerstone of the nation’s economic landscape.

“The remarkable growth in both employment and visitor spending is a testament to the UAE’s strategic vision and commitment to enhancing its Travel and Tourism. As the sector continues to set benchmarks for the global travel industry, it underscores the importance of sustainable and inclusive strategies in driving prosperity.”

Speaking from the VFS Global iConnect conference in Abu Dhabi, Zubin Zakaria, Founder & CEO of VFS Global, added: “”The UAE has always been a key contributor to global travel and this market has significantly powered the travel recovery post the pandemic. The findings of the WTTC 2024 Economic Impact Research is extremely encouraging and as a key stakeholder of the travel ecosystem, VFS Global remains committed to supporting the ongoing travel recovery and ensuring seamless and secure cross-border mobility.”

What Does the Next Decade Look Like?

The global tourism body is forecasting that the sector will grow its annual GDP contribution to more than AED275 billion by 2034, almost 11 percent of the UAE economy, and is projected to employ more than 928,000 people across the country, with one in nine residents working in the sector.

UAE Flight Booking Trends

To coincide with the launch of the report, WTTC knowledge partner ForwardKeys has revealed key insights into the latest flight booking trends for the UAE.

International arrivals at Abu Dhabi grew more than 9 percent above 2019 numbers in 2023, showing strong growth and the on-the-book for Q2 2024 is also very encouraging with bookings currently trending 59 percent ahead of last year already.

International arrivals to Dubai show the same growth, 9 percent above 2023, but the on-the-book for Q2 2024 is up 13 percent from last year.

Although a large share of international arrivals to Ras al Khaimah come via Dubai, booking data still shows a clear upward trend.

In 2023, international seat capacity to Ras Al Khaimah was 70 percent ahead of 2019, showing there is a really strong appetite for Ras Al Khaimah, independently of Dubai.

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