Egypt attends UN tourism conference for Middle East in Muscat

Nevine El-Aref from Muscat , Tuesday 28 May 2024

The UN conference connected leaders in Muscat to boost tourism investment in Middle East, exploring innovative strategies and investment opportunities

UN tourism


In a concerted effort to harness the Middle East's growing status as a global investment hub, UN Tourism organized a high-profile conference titled "Investing in Tourism: Opportunities and Challenges for Sustainable Financing."

The event, part of the UN Tourism 50th Regional Commission for the Middle East, focused on fostering sustainable investment in the tourism sector, emphasizing innovation, technology, and education.

Hosted in Muscat the capital city of Oman, the conference welcomed prominent representatives from thirteen member states, including eight tourism ministers. 

In his opening remarks, UN Tourism Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili emphasized the Middle East's leadership in tourism innovation and investment.

"The Middle East is now a true global tourism leader, influencing our sector's development worldwide. It is a hub of tourism innovation and education and a leading investor, backing ambitious projects with the power to transform tourism at every level," he said.

UN Tourism reported a significant growth in the Middle East, with international tourist arrivals in the first quarter of 2024 surging to 36 percent above pre-pandemic levels, marking a four percent increase from the same period in 2023. This follows a stellar 2023, where the Middle East became the first global region to surpass pre-pandemic visitor numbers, showing a 22 percent increase.

The tourism industry in Egypt has reached new heights, with the country welcoming 14.9 million tourists in 2023. This figure marks a record for inbound tourism, surpassing the previous peak set in 2010. 

In the first four months of 2024, Egypt attracted 4.6 million tourists, the second-highest number for this period since 2010, which saw 4.7 million visitors. This surge in tourism also led to unprecedented revenue of $4.3 billion, surpassing the $4.1 billion recorded in the corresponding period in 2023 and the $3.7 billion in 2010.

These impressive numbers highlight the robust growth and resilience of Egypt's tourism sector, positioning it for continued success in the future.

The conference focused on sustainable financing for tourism, exploring the region's opportunities and challenges. Discussions revolved around the importance of innovation, technology, and education in driving the sector's growth. 

The conference featured panel discussions addressing key priorities for stimulating tourism investments. Topics included fostering effective public-private partnerships, enhancing financial confidence, offering investment guarantees, and innovating financing mechanisms.

It also underscored the remarkable growth of tourism investments in the region. UN Tourism data highlighted the announcement of 254 greenfield projects between 2018 and 2023, amounting to a total capital investment of $15.2 billion, which are expected to create over 33,600 jobs during the same period.

Egypt alone saw significant activity, with 22 projects ranking it third in the Middle East for FDI after the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Additionally, Middle Eastern countries announced 109 greenfield FDI projects in tourism, totalling $6.8 billion.

UN Tourism Executive Director Natalia Bayona in her keynote speech, highlighted the Middle East's pivotal role in tourism innovation and investment.

"The Middle East now stands as a beacon of tourism innovation and investments," Bayona stated. "Over the past five years, the region has invested nearly $14 billion in the sector, including $341 million in tourism technology, showcasing a strong commitment to creating a more digital and impactful industry."

High-level attendees included ministers of tourism from Oman, Egypt, and Jordan, the president of Qatar Tourism, and prominent figures from destination management, investment, and finance sectors.

Representatives from the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority, Oman Development Bank, Central Bank of Oman, Investments of Future Fund Oman, Authority for SME Development of Oman, Fujairah Adventure Center, and Ahli Islamic participated, contributing to a robust dialogue on investment strategies.

In a significant move to attract more investment, UN Tourism launched the latest edition of its Tourism Doing Business investment guidelines, focusing on Jordan. This publication aims to guide investors by outlining the kingdom’s tourism potential and key considerations for foreign investments, further supporting the region's tourism sector growth.

During the conference, Egypt’s Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Ahmed Issa delved into the multifaceted role of the ministry within Egypt's tourism sector, highlighting its responsibilities as a regulator, organizer, and licensor of various activities.

He stressed the ministry's commitment to ensuring visitors enjoy exceptional experiences while upholding the highest standards of health, safety, and security. He underscored the role of private sector organizations, such as the Egyptian Tourism Federation, in driving the tourism sector in the country.

Discussing Egypt's national tourism strategy, he outlined a comprehensive set of policies aimed at fostering the development and effectiveness of institutions within the tourism industry. He underscored tourism as a service-oriented industry that significantly contributes to job creation, citing approximately one million direct and indirect job opportunities in the country.

Issa also stressed the importance of public-private cooperation in advancing the industry. He pointed to the opening of 14,209 new hotel rooms last year, all facilitated by the private sector. He highlighted the dominance of Egyptian-owned hotel companies, which represent 26 percent of the market share in Egypt's hotel industry. He also reiterated the efforts to encourage private sector investment in the hotel industry, with plans to increase Cairo's hotel rooms count from 35,000 to 60,000 over the next seven years.

The conference underscored the pivotal role of public-private partnerships in transforming tourism in the Middle East, setting a collaborative path forward for sustainable development and innovation in the sector.

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