LONDON: The regional travel & tourism contribution to GDP in the Middle East decreased significantly in 2020, dropping by 51.1%, compared to the average global decline of 49.1%, said the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) in a new report.
While domestic spending declined by 42.8%, international receipts saw a much steeper fall of 70.3%, added the new annual Economic Trends Report from WTTC.
The region, which was highly reliant on international tourism in 2019, saw international spending as a share of total Travel & Tourism spending decline from 62% of the total in 2019 to 46% in 2020.
The declines were less severe than in the rest of the Middle East. To minimise the effect of Covid-19, the Saudi government introduced several support and recovery measures that are likely to have helped. A subsidy worth SR9 billion ($2.4 billion) supported the salaries of Saudis in the private sector, including travel & tourism.
Meanwhile, in the UAE, Travel & Tourism GDP contracted by 60.3%, a steeper decline compared with regional and global average, mainly due to country’s strong reliance on international spending which witnessed a significant drop.
Travel & tourism GDP in Africa dropped 49.2% in 2020, in line with the global average. Domestic spending declined by 42.8%, while international spending saw a much steeper contraction at 66.8%.
Globally, Asia Pacific was the region hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic, with the travel sector’s contribution to GDP dropping a damaging 53.7%, compared to the global fall of 49.1%, according to the report.
International visitor spending was particularly hard hit across Asia Pacific, falling by 74.4%, as many countries across the region closed their borders to inbound tourists. Domestic spending witnessed a lower but equally punishing decline of 48.1%.
Virginia Messina, Senior Vice President WTTC, said: “WTTC data has laid bare the devastating impact the pandemic has had on Travel & Tourism around the world, leaving economies battered, millions without jobs and many more fearing for their future.”