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Arab tourism sector ‘fully recovered’ following billions lost during Covid

In December, Doha was named as the Arab Tourism Capital for 2023.

The Arab region’s tourism sector has “fully recovered” after losing more than $300 billion during the Covid-19 outbreak, president of the Arab Tourism Organization (ATO) Bandar bin Fahd Al Fuhaid said on Monday.

Citing Al Fuhaid, the Qatar news agency (QNA) reported that the region witnessed 100% recovery and noted the number of tourists to the region last year witnessed a 63% spike.

His remarks came during the Arab Tourism Media Forum held between 12-15 June in Tunisia, which highlighted the media’s role in boosting the industry.

During the same event, Al Fuhaid confirmed plans by the ATO to launch programmes with Tunisia’s tourism ministry to boost the sector within the region.

The Middle East has in recent years grown to become a major player on the global stage by hosting high-profile sporting events such as the Formula One Grand Prix in Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia.

Qatar also become the first Arab and Muslim country to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup late last year, providing an unparalleled boom to the region’s tourism sector, with millions travelling to the Middle East and Gulf region in particular for the sporting event.

In May, reports suggested the Gulf Cooperation Council was in talks to launch a single, “Schengen-like” visa that could ease travel across the region.

A Hotelier’s report at the time cited Bahrain’s Minister of Tourism Fatima Al Sairafi, who made the remarks during a panel at the Arabian Travel Market in response to a question on adopting a unified visa for the GCC.

“Discussions have taken place on how we can achieve [something] similar in the long term. We really saw the value it adds to the whole region. People spend more when they travel across countries,” she said.

The Bahraini official noted that the World Cup in Doha helped inspire discussions over a united visa system. At the time, the Hayya Card enabled fans from across the region and the world to enter the Gulf state and enjoy football while touring Qatar.

“The day will come, very soon, where tourists will say they are going to the Gulf, similar to how they say they are going to ‘Europe,’ ‘Asia’ and so on,” Al Sairafi said.

Arab Tourism Capital

In December, Doha was named as the Arab Tourism Capital for 2023.

The Arab Tourism Capital’s key was handed over to Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker during an official ceremony in February, during which he said that the world’s perspective of Qatar and the entire Arab world has transformed as a result of the FIFA World Cup’s successful hosting.

Al Fuhaid, who attended the ceremony, added that Doha’s selection as the capital of Arab Tourism for this year is well-deserved, describing the city’s state-of-the-art amenities and infrastructure as a source of pride for all Arabs.

The ATO official also said that $320 billion worth of investments have been made. By 2030, 350 million tourists are expected to travel to the Arab region.