UAE tourism to match 2019 GDP share: WTTC


The UAE’s travel and tourism sector is projected to meet the 2019 peak this year, according to recently unveiled World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) 2023 Economic Impact Research (EIR).

According to the research, the sector is forecast to contribute Dh180.6 billion to the UAE economy by the end of 2023, almost matching the 2019 high of Dh183.4 billion, only 1.5 per cent behind pre-pandemic levels. This represents nearly 10 per cent of the total economy.

WTTC is also forecasting that the sector will create nearly 7,000 jobs this year, surpassing the pre-pandemic peak of 745,100, to reach more than 758,000 employed by travel and tourism.


“We’re becoming much more energy efficient. While the sector is growing, we can see that it’s decoupled from the growth in greenhouse gas emissions”
– Julia Simpson



While inbound international travel demand into the UAE is high, domestic spend is also promising reveals the research, carried out in partnership with Oxford Economics. Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO, said: “We thought we might see a decline in domestic spend within the UAE, but, in fact, we see a strong domestic travel demand, which is great news.

“Domestic spend is going to grow 3.7 per cent to reach $13 billion by the end of the year, and it will exceed the 2019 high point by a good 14 per cent, according to our forecast. If you look at our forecast to 2033, the compound annual growth rate over the decade is 2.7 per cent year on year growth.”

International travel demand is looking very strong, with the year projecting to close 13.6 per cent ahead of 2022.

Simpson said: “The national travel and tourism sector is recovering at a rapid pace, proving the UAE continues to grow in popularity amongst international travellers. The UAE is home to one of the world’s busiest and successful airports, Dubai International, which acts as a gateway to the Middle East.

“The future for the sector looks positive. By the end of this year, the sector’s contribution will level that of 2019, and over the next decade, growth will outstrip the national GDP and create more than 114,000 new jobs, representing one in nine jobs.

“Our recent Cities EIR Report highlighted the appeal tourist destinations across the country, such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, continue to hold for international travellers. These cities have shown an incredible resilience and strong leadership.

“The UAE is unique because of the way the industry is totally integrated. The public sector works closely with the private sector, and all of the verticals are aligned together. That is the secret of success here.”

The global tourism body is forecasting that the sector will grow its GDP contribution to Dh235.5 billion by 2033, representing 10.2 per cent of the UAE economy. Over the next decade, travel and tourism is set to employ more than 872,000 people across the country, representing nearly 12 per cent of all jobs.

“It’s important to note that while the industry is coming back full force, it is in fact returning sustainably. We’re becoming much more energy efficient. While the sector is growing, we can see that it’s decoupled from the growth in greenhouse gas emissions. Access to green energy is very important – it is easier in some parts of the world than in others. We encourage governments to make Sustainable Aviation Fuel more accessible and affordable to airlines.

“We have a lot of projects globally, where we are looking at not just environmental sustainability, but biodiversity as well. Travel and tourism is on the front line of nature, with rising sea levels and in some of the forest fires and issues that we see around the world. This is why our next global summit will take place in Rwanda, a country that has successfully brought back mountain gorillas from the brink of extinction.”

WTTC carried out an extensive international benchmarking exercise through the Green Lodgings Trends Report, learning from 27,000 accommodation providers on how they are currently fairing against the 12 criteria.

AT ITB Berlin this year, WTTC launched Hotel Sustainability Basics as an industry-backed scheme to enable tourist accommodation providers from around the world, regardless of their size, to begin their sustainability journey.