Middle East tourism flight bookings up 12%

New attractions drawing more tourists
Middle East tourism flight bookings up 12%
Tourism arrivals in the Middle East are on the rise

The Middle East tourism industry is expected to grow further as inward flight bookings intended for travel in the second half of 2023 jumped 12 percent compared to last year.

The data was revealed by travel intelligence specialist ForwardKeys. Its study showed UAE and Oman with impressive double-digit growth on flight bookings, with 29 percent and 31 percent, respectively.

Middle east tourism recovery

According to ForwardKeys vice president Olivier Ponti, regional flight bookings are on a “sustained post-pandemic travel recovery.”

In addition to UAE and Oman, Jordan and Egypt were among the most popular destinations in the region in 2022.

Meanwhile, Qatar is 30 percent behind compared to its performance last year. However, Ponti pointed out that it “may not reach the exceptional volumes of last year because 2022 was greatly helped by Qatar hosting the FIFA World Cup.”

Overall, the Middle East enjoyed notable increases in international tourist numbers, according to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. “The Middle East enjoyed the strongest relative increase as arrivals climbed to 83% of pre-pandemic numbers,” the report said.

Read: Middle East hospitality sector to grow in 2023

New attractions to draw tourists

ForwardKeys noted that government spending on new infrastructure will contribute to Middle East tourism growth.

“We can be optimistic about travel continuing to recover because bookings are increasing and because many Middle Eastern governments see travel and tourism as a priority sector for investment,” Ponti explained.

ForwardKeys is particularly bullish on Oman and the UAE whose governments are investing heavily on new attractions. Saudi Arabia is also leveling up its entertainment offers.

Saudi Entertainment Ventures (SEVEN) recently announced it is investing more than SAR50 bn ($13 bn) to build 21 entertainment destinations.

These projects aim to provide a variety of entertainment experiences, some co-branded with international companies such as Warner Bros. and Mattel.

The upcoming projects are located in 14 cities across the Kingdom, including Riyadh, Kharj, Makkah, Jeddah, Taif, and Dammam. SEVEN’s new projects will also rise in Khobar, Al Ahsa, Madinah, Yanbu, Abha, Jazan, Buraidah, and Tabuk.

“These countries have moved beyond their traditional appeal, which was based on luxury shopping and high-end hotels, to diversify their attractions to cater to a broader range of tourists,” Ponti continued.

Support infrastructure

Modern airports with highly advanced technologies that offer seamless travel experiences also make Middle Eastern destinations more appealing to tourists.

Most countries in the region also offer convenient layovers or stopovers for long-haul travelers, which Ponti said: “is an added attraction for travelers.”

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