06/23/2012, 00.00
MIDDLE EAST

Tourism in Arab spring nations plunges

In Tunisia and Egypt, drop exceeds 30 per cent in 2011. Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Turkey are alternative destinations for Western and Arab tourists.

Dubai (AsiaNews/ Agencies) - Political instability, turmoil and Islamic extremism have taken their toll on the countries that spearheaded the Arab spring.

A study by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) shows that international tourist arrivals in the Middle East declined by 9 per cent in 2011. Tourist inflows to North Africa slipped more than 10 per cent.

Tunisia and Egypt are among the most affected, with 31 and 32 per cent fewer visitors respectively, a significant drop since tourism generates 10 per cent of their GDP.

UNTWO chief Taleb Rifai said however that a slow comeback was taking place. Reservations are up in Tunisia since the start of the year.

During the months of unrest, the tourist sector lost up to 90 per cent. Next year, things might be back to 2010 levels. In Egypt, reservations are still at what they were at the end of 2011.

The crisis in Syria has also affected its neighbours. In the first months of 2012, Jordan saw a 14 per cent drop, Lebanon, 21 per cent.

"The Arab Spring has left an impact," said Khaled al-Mazroui, general manager of Fujairah International Airport in the United Arab Emirates.

Local and foreign tourists are going to different destinations. "Tourists look for safe destinations, in addition of course to quality services," he explained.

Western but also Arab tourists have in fact flocked in large numbers to Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi posted a 10-per cent rise in guests at luxury hotels and hotel apartments in 2011-2012.

Turkey benefitted the most from Arab tourists, with a 400 per cent jump 2011.

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