WTTC Report: UAE’s Travel & Tourism Reaches Unprecedented Heights

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has unveiled its 2024 Economic Impact Research (EIR), showcasing a remarkable surge in Travel & Tourism within the UAE. The report reveals record-breaking achievements across key metrics, including the sector’s contribution to GDP, job creation, and visitor expenditure.

Last year marked a historic milestone for the UAE’s Travel & Tourism sector, with growth soaring by an impressive 26%, contributing a staggering AED 220 billion to the nation’s GDP. This accounted for 11.7% of the entire economy, surpassing the previous record set in 2019 by nearly 15%, underscoring the sector’s indispensable role in the country’s economic landscape.

Job opportunities within the Travel & Tourism sector surged, with an additional 41,000 jobs created, totalling over 809,000 jobs – representing one in nine jobs in the UAE. Notably, the sectors recovered all jobs lost during the pandemic by 2022 but also witnessed an 11% increase since the pre-pandemic peak in 2019.

Visitor spending, both domestic and international, witnessed substantial growth, further solidifying the UAE’s position as a global tourism powerhouse. Domestic spending, which fully rebounded in 2022, continued its upward trajectory, reaching over AED 55.5 billion, nearly 40% higher than 2019. Similarly, international visitor spending surged by almost 40% in 2023, surpassing AED 175 billion, reflecting a 12% increase from 2019 levels.

Ms. Julia Simpson, President & CEO of WTTC, commended the UAE’s remarkable achievements, emphasizing the sector’s vital role in driving economic prosperity. She lauded the country’s strategic vision and commitment to enhancing its Travel & Tourism, underscoring the importance of sustainable and inclusive strategies in sustaining growth.

Speaking at the VFS Global iConnect conference in Abu Dhabi, Zubin Zakaria, Founder & CEO of VFS Global, echoed the sentiment, highlighting the UAE’s significant contribution to global travel recovery post-pandemic.

WTTC forecasts continued growth in the UAE’s Travel & Tourism sector in 2024, with GDP projected to exceed AED 236 billion. Job opportunities are expected to increase by over 23,500, reaching nearly 833,000, while international and domestic visitor spending is forecasted to continue their upward trajectory.

In the long term, WTTC predicts sustained growth, with the sector’s annual GDP contribution expected to surpass AED 275 billion by 2034, employing over 928,000 people across the country.

Across the Middle East, the Travel & Tourism sector witnessed significant growth in 2023, with GDP reaching almost $460 billion. WTTC forecasts continued growth throughout 2024, with GDP contribution set to exceed $507 billion.

Flight booking trends in the UAE remain optimistic, with international arrivals in Abu Dhabi and Dubai surpassing 2019 numbers by over 9% last year. Bookings for the second quarter of 2024 indicate robust growth, with Abu Dhabi bookings up by 59% and Dubai bookings up by 13% compared to last year, according to WTTC’s knowledge partner ForwardKeys.

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