MENA Tourism After Coronavirus

As countries begin to open up, what does the future of regional tourism look like? 

  • By externalwire | June 6, 2020,2:54 pm
Ap Jemaa El Fna

The coronavirus pandemic has triggered a crisis in the global tourism industry with border closures and lockdowns resulting in global air traffic falling 60.8% in April year-on-year. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is suggesting the pandemic could cost the airline industry $314 billion

In 2018, international arrivals to MENA destinations grew by 10% and for a number of countries, tourism is an increasingly important source of employment. In oil-based economies, such as Saudi Arabia, tourism is a key component of plans to diversify revenue streams. 2019 was an excellent year for tourism, with the region outpacing the global average in competitive growth. 

Within the MENA, countries in North Africa, most notably Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia, stand out for their high tourist numbers. In 2019, a record 13 million tourists visited Morocco, an increase of 5.2.% compared to the year before while Egypt saw an increase of 21%, welcoming just under 14 million tourists. 

The impact of coronavirus in the MENA region

Tourism represents a greater share of regional GDP than in the world’s other four travel regions (Europe and Eurasia, Asia-Pacific, the Americas, and Sub-Saharan Africa), highlighting the threat that shutting down travel represents to regional prosperity in the MENA. 

In the first quarter of 2020, Tunisia recorded a 27% decrease in tourism revenues. Tourism represents the second biggest contributor to the country’s GDP. When the pandemic hit, the sector was already in recovery following sustained damage in the aftermath of the 2015 terrorist attacks that targeted Sousse, a popular tourist destination. 

What will tourism look like after coronavirus? 

With summer approaching and the reopening of international borders across Europe, many are beginning to look ahead to where their next trip may take them. The novel coronavirus remains highly contagious, as new outbreaks in factories and following large gatherings continue to demonstrate, and will undoubtedly have implications on tourism for some time to come.

In May, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) issued a set of guidelines to assist the tourism sector as it emerges from the COVID-19 crisis. Central to the guidelines is the development of safety protocols. Suggestions for ensuring traveller safety include immunization certificates, mandatory testing at airports, increased frequency of cleaning, and measures to implement social distancing at airports and on planes. 

Despite the disruption of the past few months and the challenges ahead, officials in Dubai remain confident that the Emirati state will be able to attract large numbers of tourists in the near future. Citing high numbers of online activity and enquiries, officials claimed Dubai could become a “top five” tourist destination. Last month Dubai began to slowly reopen hotels and beaches while spas, pools, and children’s play areas remain closed.  

In Tunisia, industry leaders are urging officials to consider diversifying the country’s tourism offerings. The large, resort-based, all-inclusive offerings that are popular in Tunisia will be difficult to modify to COVID-19 requirements. Suggested alternatives include developing tourism for more upscale clientele with a focus on boutique hotels and personalized services. 

Related Articles

Is the US Under a De Facto State of Martial Law?
Is the US Under a De Facto State of Martial Law?

Calls to “dominate” protesters and heavy-handed police action are the last remaining responses available to a government unwilling to grant social and economic equality to communities of color.

Campaign against short shorts
Men’s Shorts Become Target for Islamist Policing Attempts

A social media campaign to stop men from wearing short shorts has emerged in Morocco. Supporters of the campaign are calling for men to “protect their entourage and the muslim community” by refusing to wear above-the-knee shorts in public.  Targeting a style of shorts particularly popular with young men, the campaign claims they are “not […]

Art in War Torn Libya

Libyan digital artist Razan Al Naas (@razangryffindor) weaves the country’s culture and history into digital collages that provoke thought and awe. A large part of that history in recent times has been the instability and conflict that has ravaged the country since the overthrow of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.  The increase in fighting […]

Rachida Tlaib is sworn in wearing a Palestinian thobe
The Palestinian Thobe as a Symbol of National Pride

Consisting of multiple pieces, including front and back panels, a square chestpiece, and sleeves, it is possible to trace the Palestinian back to the second century B.C. Records from the era show the Canaanites (as people from the region were then known) dressed in the distinct fashion.   The detailed embroidery that features on the thobe, […]