The Middle East is poised to become the world’s dominant travel hub with the number of tourist arrivals projected to double to 136 million by 2020, a new study by Amadeus predicts.
The Securing the Prize for the Middle East report found that religious tourism is likely to be a major new factor, with Saudi Arabia generating more than $7 billion in 2009 from visitors to Muslim pilgrimage sites and projecting visitor numbers to grow from over 12 million in 2009 to 15 million in 2013.
The emergence of a new range of low cost carriers will also support the upward trend.
But the study also warns against complacency and exposes the risks posed by a lack of coordinated pan-regional policies in regulation, investment and business operation.
The report issues recommendations focused on the need for integration and transparency, such as the creation of a common regulatory framework across the region covering visa regulations, immigration and air control.
Amadeus vice president, Middle East and North Africa Antoine Medawar said: “The Middle East already connects more major global destinations via a single flight than any other hub. This has been the result of aspiration, dedication and innovation from business and political leaders.
“This approach to strategic planning, ambitious investment and early technology adoption continues and the region is now poised to take an even greater competitive leap forward enabling it to lead the next wave of globalisation.
“The aim of becoming the world’s dominant travel hub by 2025 is within reach, but obstacles remain, the chief one being complacency.”
Mona Faraj, managing partner of Insights Management Consultancy which helped produce the study, added: “From a global perspective, the stagnation of existing global hub developments necessitates the development of new ones, and the Middle East would be the best choice to create them.
“However, while the region benefits from assets such as strategic geographical location and strong GDP growth, it will still need to work hard to attract new business and leisure travellers to the region.”