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The Stalled but Promising Growth of Tourism in the Middle East

From Oil to Tourism: How the Middle East is Pivoting Towards a New Industry
By Yukta Arora, Marketing

The Middle East as a geopolitical destination has been the point of attention for centuries due to conflicts, discovery of oil and its strategic position on the world map. Lately, the location has also picked traction for another reason: Popular Tourist Destination.

World’s main concentration of oil can be found in this region leading to fast development and presence of ultra-rich individuals. The rapid  socio-economic growth has made the mid east a popular immigration destination for individuals in search for a better lifestyle.

Since oil is a limited resource, countries have started looking at other sources to generate revenue and one of the major means here is tourism.


Dubai was the first country to realize the true potential of the region and is thus, one of the most visited countries by Indians. Over the years, Dubai has expanded the tourist attractions. Every year, a new attraction is added, making it a favorable destination for more traveled tourists. Some of the popular tourist attractions in Dubai are:

  • Desert Safari
  • Museum Of Future
  • Global Village
  • Miracle Garden
  • Top Golf
  • Edge Walk
  • Burj Khalifa
  • Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo
  • Burj Khalifa
  • Dhow Cruise

This rapid pivot to tourism by Dubai has led to employment generation and tourism contributing to a major chunk of the Dubai economy. This has also made other countries in the region to shift to tourism as a major category and endeavor to work on developing their countries as such.


Tourism Options in Middle East are varied and available for even seasoned tourists.The baton of change was held by Saudi and Qatar.  With Qatar being the host of FIFA World Cup 2022, the region has seen millions of fans booking flights and hotels to watch their favorite players in action.

This gave the neighboring countries and excellent opportunity to launch themselves and desirable tourism hubs.

Qatar tourism has launched the “Posts of Qatar” campaign while Saudi Arabia has been very active in marketing its tourism in India with “Welcome to Arabia” campaign.

With the growth initiatives being taken in the region, not only Dubai but entire Middle East might become center-point of tourism in years to come

Rizwi (Dubai Destination Expert at Travclan)

More and more countries are working in this direction and investing towards tourism, such as Bahrain which attracted $492 million of tourism capital investment in 2020. Further, Dubai International Airport expects to record 64.5 mn travelers by 2022 end.

The total contribution of the travel and tourism industry to the GDP of Middle Eastern countries is expected to reach around $486.1 billion by 2028. While countries like Bahrain, Qatar and Dubai are continuously working in the direction to increase tourism, Saudi Arabia has earmarked $1 trillion to its travel and tourism sector through 2030. Saudi Arabia has various projects lined up in this endeavor such as Amaala, Neom, Qiddiyah Project and the Red Sea Project and several others to promote Saudi heritage too.

The region presents ample opportunities to pitch it as a travel destination owing it to be a much cheaper alternative to the costlier European destinations, though having similar level of amenities. The food and language of the region, which are much similar to India, also present a benefit to Indian tourists in respect to familiarity. Considering the tourism development efforts in these countries and events like FIFA, the tourism is bound to grow here and thus it would be highly beneficial for travel agents to pitch the destinations in near future.

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