Tourism growth expected to continue in 2011, says WTTC

Scowsill…government recognition growing

AS the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) prepares to launch its annual economic impact survey, TTN talks to president and CEO DAVID SCOWSILL about what’s in store.

Can you give an indication of what the figures will show in terms of GDP for 2010/2011 and is the Middle East expected to fall in line with the rest of the world?

The WTTC includes the following countries within the Middle East: Bahrain, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the UAE and Yemen.

Unfortunately, 2010 was a difficult year for the Middle East in terms of travel and tourism’s contributions to GDP (gross domestic product) and jobs. Figures show that the direct contribution of travel and tourism to GDP in the Middle East fell slightly in 2010.  The contribution in 2011, however, is forecast to increase.

In terms of travel and tourism’s total contribution to GDP, the growth picture is very much similar. Although in 2010, the variable was slightly over nil per cent, the projection for 2011 shows a very promising increase. Compared to other regions of the world, the Middle East is within the top five in terms of direct contribution to GDP and within the top ten in terms of travel and tourism’s total contribution to GDP (out of 13 regions).

How is the coming year expected to be with jobs in the industry worldwide and what is the figure likely to be in the Middle East for 2011?

Based on WTTC’s prediction, both the direct and total contribution of travel and tourism to total jobs in the Middle East are predicted to grow in 2011. This means that the Middle East ranks among the top 10 in terms of travel and tourism direct and total contribution to employment.

Last year was expected to see a decline in capital investment, did this happen or was the year better than expected?

Last year we predicted a 1.2 per cent decline over the previous year and that figure still holds.  However in 2011 we expect to see a return to growth in capital investment.

In comparison to other regions of the world, the Middle East ranks in the top ten for travel and tourism’s contribution to capital investment.

Are governments now beginning to recognise the importance of travel and tourism as an employment and income generator and, if so, what are governments in the Middle East region doing to encourage this?

Yes some, governments are starting to recognise the importance of travel and tourism and its linkages to other industries such as finance. A good example of this is the Jordan government setting aside a substantial amount of money in its 2011 budget for the Jordan Tourism Board. Jordan has also developed a new five-year tourism strategy.

Is the WTTC still forecasting growth in the Middle East tourism sector of six per cent up to 2020 and what is needed to sustain this?

The revised forecast up to 2021, predicts that the growth will almost match this figure. To sustain this growth, the Middle East should ensure the co-ordination of policies and close working relationships with the private sector. Sustainable developments and growth, including the creation of a common and transparent regulatory framework across the region covering visa regulations, immigration and air control, is also very important.

We would also recommend that governments continue to invest in travel and tourism related facilities to sustain the growth. In addition, one should be mindful of the impact of current political instability in some of the Middle East nations and the impacts on travel and tourism.

When will the full findings of the annual economic impact research be announced?

WTTC’s new economic Impact research will be launched on Thursday, March 3, in London, UK. I will present the direct, indirect and total contribution of travel and tourism to GDP, employment, exports and investment for 2011 and over 10 years to 2021.

The reports include a world overview, 181 individual countries and 22 country ‘groupings’, as well as rankings against similar destinations which provide a foundation for competitor analysis and illustrating the contribution of business versus leisure and domestic versus international travel.  They are created to help governments and business understand the true power and potential of the industry to boost GDP, employment and exports, helping to drive economic growth.