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Source: Gulf Daily News
Author: Mandeep Singh
Unrest across the Arab world cost the region more than 7.5 million tourists last year, it has been revealed.
Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen suffered the full brunt of the Arab Spring, while tourism also slowed down in Jordan, Bahrain and Lebanon due to the political and security crisis.
Holidaymakers instead opted to visit other countries in the region including Turkey, Greece, the UAE and Oman, said World Tourism Organisation (WTO) secretary-general Dr Taleb Rifai.
“This part of the world annually attracts 18 million tourists, and they are now coming back gradually,” he added.
“The countries worst affected were Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen, which have a thriving tourism industry, but, to a lesser extent Jordan, Bahrain and Lebanon were also affected.”
Dr Rifai, who is on a visit to Bahrain, was speaking during a Press conference yesterday at the Bahrain National Museum, which was attended by Culture Minister Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa.
He said it was important for these countries, including Bahrain, to set up a national strategy to promote tourism, which could also help kick-start reconciliation and unity.
“With the promotion of tourism will come creation of hundreds of jobs, and this will contribute to the countries’ national economies,” he explained.
“The sector has tremendous potential and we must look at more and more ways to see this sector is promoted.”
Dr Rifai said a billion tourists crossed borders in the region last year, which comprised a seventh of the world’s population.
“The sector also accounts for nine per cent of the world’s gross domestic product,” he added.
He also urged the private sector in Bahrain to contribute to the development of tourism.
“There is a need for the private sector to get involved and that will encourage more and more people to take part in the process,” he said.
“The more the jobs, the more there will be income and people and the economy will have more confidence.”