Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, Minister of Economy and Head of the Emirates Tourism Council, emphasized the UAE’s commitment, under the guidance and vision of its wise leadership, to actively support global endeavors in promoting sustainable tourism.
He further highlighted the UAE’s dedication to contributing to initiatives that foster the formulation of sustainable tourism policies, facilitating the growth of international tourism.
Bin Touq made these remarks during his participation in the G20 Tourism Ministers’ Meeting 2023, which was attended by over 20 decision-makers in the global tourism industry recently in Goa, India.
He asserted the significance of collaborative endeavors and proactive measures to propel the regional and global tourism sector in a way that supports achieving comprehensive economic and social development in line with the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.
The G20 Tourism Ministers’ Meeting discussed several tourism topics and agendas related to tourism. One significant focus was on promoting sustainability in the tourism industry and harnessing the possibilities presented by digital transformation and smart applications, especially in the realm of tourism services. Additionally, the meeting addressed strategies for enhancing the tourism sector and making it appealing to global talent, especially through the development of innovative tourism products. The participants emphasised the necessity of fostering a supportive environment that embraces small and medium enterprises (SMEs) within the tourism sector.
Bin Touq said: “In the present era, the development of the tourism sector heavily relies on sustainability, given the prevailing environmental and social circumstances. It has become crucial to raise awareness about the significance of sustainable tourism through the implementation of legislation and policies that safeguard natural resources, cultural heritage, and encourage sustainable development in tourist destinations. The implementation of sustainable tourism strategies on both regional and global scales provides adequate support in the transformation of tourist destinations into environmentally conscious and sustainable entities.”
“The UAE has been keen to enhance its tourism infrastructure according to global standards. This involves creating unique tourist destinations and broadening the range of tourism offerings in the country to cater to the diverse needs of visitors. The UAE has made significant investments in expanding its transportation network, including land and air travel, to attract a larger number of tourists to the region. Furthermore, the significance of hosting international events in the UAE cannot be understated, as they play a vital role in strengthening the tourism sector and cementing the country’s prominent position on the global tourism stage. These events serve as important catalysts for attracting visitors and boosting the overall appeal of the UAE as a leading tourist destination,” HE added.
He said: “These developments have played a significant role in propelling the tourism industry of the UAE towards remarkable expansion and success. During the first quarter of 2023, the hotel establishments in the UAE generated revenues surpassing AED 12.2 billion, marking a growth of 7 per cent compared to the same period in 2022. Additionally, we welcomed over 7.2 million guests in the first quarter of 2023, experiencing a notable increase of 18 per cent compared to the same period in 2022, and a solid growth of 3 per cent when compared to the figures from 2019.”
He stated that the total hotel nights amounted to 26 million nights in the first quarter of 2023, an increase of 6 per cent compared to the same period in 2022 and 15 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2019. Moreover, the hotel occupancy rate stood at about 80 per cent, which is among the highest rates regionally and globally compared to the main tourist markets.
He asserted that the tourism sector’s contribution to the UAE’s GDP was 10 per cent in 2022, with a total of AED 166.7 billion. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, this will further rise to AED 180.6 billion by the end of 2023, reflecting a growth rate of 8.3 per cent compared to the previous year. Additionally, HE said the tourism sector played a crucial role in generating over 750,000 job opportunities in the country last year, accounting for 12 per cent of the total labor market.
“In a remarkable development, the transport and storage sector played a dominant role in the growth of the country’s GDP at constant prices in 2022. It accounted for the largest share, with a substantial increase of 20.2 per cent compared to 2021. This exceptional growth can be attributed to various factors, including the surge in international flight passengers, the overall rise in air traffic, and the increased revenues of national airlines. Consequently, this tourism-related sector experienced its highest growth rate in recent years,” HE added.
He asserted that the UAE is implementing several leading tourism projects, including the ‘Palm Jebel Ali’ project, which will add about 110 km to the coast of Dubai and will include 80 resorts and home to about 35,000 families. The ‘Sea World Abu Dhabi’ project has also launched on an area of 180.000 Sqm. The project includes more than 150 species of marine animals, strengthening the entertainment sector in the country.
He said: “The UAE Tourism Strategy 2031 is a roadmap for creating a sustainable tourism sector. Its primary objectives include positioning the UAE as the world’s premier tourist destination, enhancing its tourist identity. The strategy also strives to elevate the tourism sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP to AED 450 billion, while attracting new investments worth AED 100 billion specifically for the tourism industry. Additionally, the strategy aims to welcome 40 million guests by the year 2031. With these goals in mind, the UAE is committed to shaping a thriving and prosperous tourism sector for the future.”
Bin Touq added: “Through the Emirates Tourism Council and in cooperation with its partners from the local tourism authorities, the Ministry of Economy is implementing the objectives of this strategy and developing new tourism initiatives and policies that support the sustainable growth of the tourism sector in the country.” He referred to the UAE announcement of 2023 as ‘Year of Sustainability’, which will enhance the national efforts to accelerate the sustainable transformation of the travel, tourism, aviation, and transportation sectors.
The global tourism industry is witnessing a qualitative development this year, as the number of tourists in the world reached 80 per cent of the levels of 2019. The Middle East is also witnessing a remarkable improvement in various tourism indicators, as the reports of the World Tourism Organization indicate that it is the only region that exceeded the rates of 2019 and achieved an increase of 15 per cent in the number of tourists in the first quarter of 2023 compared to the same period in 2021, while the number of global tourists amounted to about one billion tourists in 2022, which is a double rate for 2021.
He emphasised the importance of the G20 meetings, which have emerged as the foremost platform for decision-making across a range of domains, particularly in the realms of economics and tourism. The G20 Tourism Ministers’ Meeting 2023, in particular, holds immense importance as it serves as a pivotal platform for promoting the shift towards a sustainable tourism industry rooted in international standards and practices. Furthermore, it provides crucial guidance for investments in diverse tourism sectors.
He thanked the Republic of India for inviting the UAE to participate in the G20 Tourism Ministers’ Meeting 2023, appreciating its efforts to coordinate working groups and its vital role in promoting international efforts to achieve sustainable development goals worldwide.