Talking travel and tourism in the week of Arabian Travel Market

Op-ed by Hisham Al Gurg, CEO, Seed Group and the Private Office of Sheikh Saeed bin Ahmed Al Maktoum


Travel and tourism sector has been touted as one of the biggest industries of the world for years now. Ever since air travel became a reality and global infrastructure made it possible to reach any corner of the globe in a matter of hours, travel has been one of the major contributors to the world economy. 

The prospects for the sector were bright until coronavirus hit and toppled the industry. The flights were grounded, the staff were laid off, the hotels were shut down – overall, the travel and tourism industry went from being at the top of the game to become one of the worst-hit industries in just a few weeks. 

The initial few months were grim for the business. However, with resilience the world over things started to look better soon. Although not fully recovered, the industry still remains one of the most important parts of economies worldwide. So much so that despite the pandemic, global tourism was ranked the 10th biggest industry by revenue in 2021 at $15.4 trillion by IBISWorld’s Biggest Industries by Revenue Global in 2021 report.

For us, in the UAE, tourism is the lifeline of the economy. The tourism and travel sector has helped the country diversify its economy and reduce reliance on oil-dependent entities ever since the country was formed. The importance of this sector to our economy can be gauged by the fact that its total contribution to the UAE’s GDP is forecast to rise by 4.9 per cent per annum to AED265 billion by 2027, according to the official figures. This would be 12.4 percent of the country’s GDP in 2027. This sector is also expected to support 410,000 jobs which would be 5.9 per cent of the total employment in 2027. 

Additionally, investment is rife in the right areas of the travel and tourism industry and is expected to rise by 11 per cent per annum to AED74.5 billion in 2027, which would be 11.2 per cent of the total investments. 

Now, yes the past few months were difficult but the UAE has managed extremely well to address this situation. Our bounce back was made possible with the best policies, rules, and regulations put in place by the authorities and the utmost discipline followed by the UAE residents.

With right leadership and vision, teamwork, we executed a rapid vaccine distribution programme that instilled confidence among tourists. We successfully presented an image of the safest tourist destination in the world by flattening the curve. 

Dubai residents and tourists return to the beaches on a hot weekend.

Result? We managed to beat the repercussions of the pandemic and were able to attract tourists to our country, open the country to visitors, and host an event of the stature of the Arabian Travel Market (ATM). Global aviation and tourism players have been meeting at the event in Dubai for the past few days now, to map out the industry’s post-coronavirus recovery. 

The successful hosting of this in-person event is in itself a testimony that the whole world trusts the UAE and its preparedness to beat any crisis situation. This is the first in-person travel and tourism event in the world since the onset of the pandemic.

This success can be attributed to our visionary leadership and their futuristic decisions, the rapid vaccine distribution system, the country’s ability to reopen the borders to international travellers at the right time, the investment into the right areas of digital technology, and the access to cheaper PCR tests and greener operations in the light of the pandemic. 

It won’t be an exaggeration to say that the UAE is on the right path to becoming one of the first economies to recover fully from the aftereffects of the pandemic in the coming time.

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