Tourism will have a huge impact on the future of the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa), with the number of visitors – 195 million by 2030 (according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization – UNWTO figures) – growing at a higher rate than the world average. This brings a whole host of benefits and in particular this means more jobs, higher economic diversification, promotion of trade, entrepreneurship and innovation and infrastructure development.
A crucial element to establishing a highly competitive and sustainable travel and tourism sector is ensuring the education and upskilling of the population. With a youthful and technologically-savvy population emerging (nearly 25% of the GCC – Gulf Cooperation Council – population is under 15 years old, according to an Amadeus study), the potential is huge. Private-public partnerships are instrumental in equipping students and the labour force with the relevant skills to fuel the growth in the tourism sector – one of the most important industries in the region.
I discussed this at the UN World Tourism Organisation & Arabian Travel Market Ministerial Forum 2017, held in Dubai at the Arabian Travel Market today – an official event of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism. The discussion revolved around the contribution of tourism to sustainable economic growth and economic diversification in the MENA region. Due to our partnership with UNWTO and our sponsorship of the Year of Sustainable Tourism, Amadeus was asked to participate in the industry conference that followed the forum.
All participants agreed on the key role of education as one of the pillars of sustainable travel and tourism, and also on the need for joint initiatives to fill gaps.