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A new kind of tourism after the Arab Spring

A new kind of tourism after the Arab Spring

When the dust of settles, can the Arab Spring attract a new breed of tourist? Faysal Kawas looks at the future of tourism for politically charged landmarks in the region.

October 4, 2011 2:44 by

A man’s loss is another man’s gain. This proverb is nowhere more relevant than to the Arab Spring.  And while civilian casualties continue to be an unfortunate cost of these events, financial and economic losses are hard to ignore.


The tourism sector is high on this list of losses. With the Middle East being the fastest-growing region for airline arrivals last year, it is now suffering a 12 percent drop. This is not a surprising statistic. After all, what beach-loving, sightseeing tourist would opt to replace their leisurely vacation with an adventurous stay in the midst of gunshots and violence?

A recent article in The National pointed out losses in the tourism sector across the MENA region as a result of the Arab Spring. According to the UN World Tourism Organization, the political instability has prompted a 13 percent drop in arrivals to North Africa and an 11 percent fall in the Middle East. Reading these numbers, one has to keep in mind that most of the countries that witnessed instability (such as Egypt, Syria, and Tunisia) over the past months rely heavily on tourism. In Egypt’s tourism sector alone employs 12 percent of the country’s workforce and in 2008 this sector provided revenues of nearly $11 billion.


Regional instability does not translate to cancelled vacations, however. Instead, it will mean vacationers looking for “safer” alternative destinations. One such go-to country is the UAE. Tourists, who perhaps preferred to visit Egypt or Syria, are now redirecting their itineraries to Dubai or Abu Dhabi.  They could still enjoy the Arab culture, traditions, and scenery but without having to worry about their safety and security.

This has reflected in the numbers being reported from the tourism industry in the UAE. According to a report by Gulf News, total revenue from tourism in Abu Dhabi is up 5 percent to AED2.7 billion while room revenue has increased 4 percent, and food and beverage income is up 9 percent.


Until the dust settles in countries witnessing unrest, countries such as UAE will certainly continue to benefit from the Arab Spring—ringing in the profits from tourism and diverted business development.

An article in Gulf News quotes AED24.5 billion in losses has so far been recorded during the Arab Spring.

But what happens when the dust settles? It’s not such a farfetched idea to view a new trend of tourism across the Arab World—by then, one would assume it to be replete with new visionary business and political leaders, particularly in countries such as Libya, Egypt and Syria.

Far from being tourist experts, Kipp would venture a few steps back in history to look at places where unrest previously resided. The location of the Berlin Wall is now a must-see for anyone visiting Berlin. The same goes for Tiananmen Square in Beijing. So who knows? Tahrir Square in Egypt, Benghazi in Libya, and Daraa in Syria might become the region’s Berlin Wall or Tiananmen. These landmarks may not only be pivotal to their respective country’s political history but serve as an avenue to regain global touristic relevance.

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