The tourism sector in the six GCC countries will recover faster than the other tourism-dependent Middle East and North Africa (Mena) countries such as Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Egypt, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) said.
The Washing DC-based think-tank foresees tourism in the Mena region will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023.
Garbis Iradian, chief economist for Mena and CCA at IIF, said partial information for the first quarter of this year showed that the number of tourist arrivals to the oil-importing Mena countries were just 25 per cent of what they were in first quarter of 2020, and recent increases in Covid-19 cases in key source markets, including the EU, will delay the partial recovery to the second half of this year.
“We expect the five tourism-dependent Mena economies to suffer much longer than the six GCC countries from the negative impacts of the pandemic,” said Iradian.
Interestingly, the region’s largest travel and tourism exhibition Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2021 begins in Dubai next week, becoming the first in-person travel and tourism event in the world since the onset of the pandemic. Around 62 countries represented on exhibition floor such as KSA, Germany, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Thailand, Indonesia, Egypt, South Korea, The Philippines, Malaysia, Maldives and Israel.
“The recovery will be gradual and limited in scope, and tourism in the Mena region is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023. Tourists from the EU, UK, Russia, and the USA may be enticed by other countries in the Mediterranean region, with low-cost brands (Turkey), or to continue to focus more on domestic trips or nature in countries where they reside,” he said.
IIF warned that virus mutations and slow vaccine rollout in non-GCC Mena countries pose downside risks to a projected strong recovery in tourism in 2022.
“Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, and Lebanon could face repeated outbreaks before vaccines become widely available, limiting the chance of herd immunity before end- 2022,” added Iradian.
“German, French, UK, Russian, and GCC nationals, who combined accounted for more than 70 per cent of the number of tourist arrivals before the pandemic, may now opt to spend their vacations in countries where the health system is reliable, and the Covid-19 vaccination rate is relatively high,” added Iradian.