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WTTC launches Middle East chapter

If there was more proof needed that the Middle East travel industry is coming of age then the inception of the region’s first World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) chapter at the end of April should curb all doubts.

If there was more proof needed that the Middle East travel industry is coming of age then the inception of the region’s first World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) chapter at the end of April should curb all doubts. Chaired by Maurice Flanagan, vice chairman and group president of Emirates and the longest standing Middle East member of WTTC, the chapter will also be supported by Gerald Lawless, CEO of Jumeirah; Chris Moloney, COO of InterContinental Hotels Group in the Middle East; and Michel Noblet, managing director of Coral International, as well as other industry leaders.

“The WTTC chapter has been [formed] to create awareness. The strength of WTTC is in its members and its research,” said Jean-Claude Baumgarten, president, WTTC, at the launch. The Middle East chapter joins WTTC groups in Europe, Asia, the US and India.

The WTTC released its 2006 Travel & Tourism forecasts for the Middle East at the inaugural meeting. The research, prepared by Oxford Economic Forecasting, which follows the United Nations standard for Tourism Satellite Accounting, reported that 2005 set new records for travel and tourism.

Total demand for the Middle East is set to rise, with travel and tourism expected to generate US$147.6 billion of economic activity in 2006, growing to $279.4 billion by 2016, a 4.4% per annum growth.

“People have stepped up to the plate in recent years and started spending again,” said Richard Miller, executive vice president of WTTC. “For 2006, we expect stronger visitor exports but with spending slightly off 2005 levels,” he reported.

Middle East travel and tourism is expected to generate total exports amounting to $66.8 billion in 2006, growing to $112.5 billion in 2016. Meanwhile, the travel industry is expected to contribute 2.6% to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2006 (US$27.3 billion), rising in nominal terms to US$58.9 billion (3.1% of total) by 2016, across the region. Economic contribution should rise from 9.6% ($102.2 billion) to 10.1% ($189.5 billion) in the same period.

According to Miller, the biggest producers will be Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt, with personal travel and tourism consumption growing significantly. For Bahrain, he predicts a burst of investment and visitor exports, while Oman will see a diversification of its tourism product. Miller also predicts great things for Qatar. He said: “Qatar has a great deal of plans for building its travel and tourism infrastructure. It is building market share and has the opportunity to climb.”

The UAE also shows spectacular growth. “2006 should be a strong year, with visitor exports expected to exceed the 10 year average and double last year. Hotels should be full, and there will be a lot of happy people by the end of the year,” Miller predicted.

From a human resources standpoint, Middle East travel and tourism employment is estimated at 4,590,000 jobs in 2006, 10.1% of total employment, or 1 in every 9.9 jobs. By 2016, this should total 6,141,000 jobs, 10.6% of total employment or 1 in every 9.5 jobs.

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