Dubai is key tourism destination: GCC chambers

Dubai has been in the forefront of regional efforts to develop its tourism sector and this has turned it into a major destination for tourists from the oil-rich Gulf and other countries, the GCC chambers of commerce and industry said on Wednesday.

Although the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries possess a tourism potential, most of their citizens still travel abroad for holidays, pumping nearly $27 billion a year, the federation of the GCC chambers of commerce and industry said.

In a report sent to Emirates 24/7, the Dammam-based Federation said GCC nations, which control over 40 per cent of the world’s proven oil wealth, need to devise a common strategy to expand local tourism by opening up their borders to each others, increasing flights by their national carriers and encouraging visits by citizens. It also called for what it described as a partnership between the public and private sectors.

The report showed the Arab region was the only area in the world that recorded negative growth in tourism revenue last year mainly because of the ongoing political unrest in the region, adding that the Arab tourism income contracted by about 14 per cent in 2012. In the Americas, the income swelled by around 5.7 per cent while it grew by 5.2 per cent in Europe, 4.3 per cent in the Pacific region and 2.2 per cent in Africa.

“Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC ) countries have the potential to achieve high growth in tourism if they utilize investments and attract foreign capital into this sector,” the Federation’s chairman Khalil Al khanji said in the report.

“They can do so by offering more incentives to local and foreign investors as was the case in the UAE and Bahrain, particularly Dubai, which has become a key tourism destination preferred by many GCC and foreign tourists.”

He said Saudi Arabia can develop what he described as “religious”
tourism while Oman has many forts and other historic sites that enable it to attract a large number of tourists. Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain can also work on increasing the number of tourists.

“As for the UAE, this country has gone a long way in the development of its tourism sector, mainly Dubai….the UAE is set to become a global tourism centre.”

Khanji said plans by the GCC countries to invest nearly $18 billion on tourism projects by 2015 would give a strong push to the sector, which he described as a main pillar of economic diversification programmes in the six members.

“There are also reports that the six countries are allocating $380 billion for tourism and heritage projects until 2018…this is a major step in the right direction towards a strong tourism industry in the region,” he said.

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