GCC’s travel and tourism potential

The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2013’s findings clearly show that GCC states can make exceptional achievements through sustained, innovative ideas .

Notwithstanding limited natural wonders, some Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are demonstrating capability of posting good performance in a key report dealing with travel and tourism. Reference is made to the recently issued, The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2013, issued by the World Economic Forum.
In particular, the report gives high marks for the UAE by virtue of securing the best ranking for any Arab and Muslim nation. The UAE has advanced by six notches to secure global ranking No. 27 amongst 140 nations ranked in the report.

To be sure, financial value associated with the travel and tourism sector in the UAE is exceptional. The talk is about some $50bn, certainly a substantial amount. This translates into the sector compromising around 14 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The credit for this outstanding performance is partially reserved for developing innovative travel concepts including artificial islands besides hotels meeting different tastes and budgets.

For their parts, UAE carriers are contributing towards the objective of making the country an international tourist destination. Suffice to say that Emirates operates flights to more than 120 destinations daily in six continents.

In fact, Dubai International Airport has emerged as the second busiest airport in the world for international traffic in the first two months of 2013, with throughput of some 10.6 million, a growth of 13 per cent. London’s Heathrow topped the list. Still, Etihad, Air Arabia and flydubai make their contributions to the cause of making the UAE a hot spot for visitors. Reflecting the spirit of competition, UAE carriers compete amongst themselves for business on same routes.

Qatar’s strength

Turning to other GCC countries, Qatar has secured the second best ranking amongst Arab countries despite falling by one notch to ranking no 41. Understandably, Qatar’s strengths entail boasting a safe and secured place and placing no restrictions on the employment of foreign workers in the travel and tourism sector. Latest population in Qatar stands at 1.92 million, up from 1 million in 2007. Expatriates make up around 85 of the population and more of the workforce.

Worryingly, Bahrain’s ranking has suffered a setback, dropping by 15 places, the worst within the GCC. The new ranking is that of No. 55 globally, thereby the third best regionally.

Certainly, this is a serious matter, as the travel and tourism sector makes up some 7 per cent of the GDP. As such, movements within this sector leave their imprints on Bahrain’s GDP.Undoubtedly, the prolonged nature of the socio-political crisis, ever since February 2011, is partly responsible for the substandard performance.

Still, recently the country’s Transport Minister, Kamal Ahmad, warned that Bahrain could face downgrading in case of not streamlining its aviation laws. The International Civil Aviation Organisation could downgrade Bahrain due to technical aspects amongst other reasons. Moreover, supported by its natural treasures, Oman saw its ranking improved by four notches to ranking No. 57 globally. Still, Saudi Arabia maintained its ranking No. 62 thanks in part to the flow of pilgrims to the holy places.

Yet, Kuwait’s ranking fell by six notches, and therefore pushed to ranking No. 101. Kuwait is the sole GCC country not ranked within in the top 100 places in the report. On another negative point, the report puts Kuwait in the list of countries least friendly to visitors. Undoubtedly, part of the problem concerns high value of the local currency, as visitors must exchange $3.5 for a single KD.

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