March 8, 2023

Middle East world’s best performing tourism region in 2022

The Middle-East enjoyed the strongest relative increase with arrivals climbing to 83% of pre-pandemic numbers, according to the UNWTO. Africa also bounced back in 2022 with arrivals reaching 65% of 2019 levels.

The Middle East’s strong rebound was driven by a number of key events. After being postponed, Expo2020 finally took place in Dubai from October 1st, 2021 to March 31, 2022. It received 14.36 million international overnight visitors in 2022, growing 97% year-on-year from the 7.28 million tourist arrivals in 2021. The second major event of the year in the Middle-East was the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Qatar achieved a 19% increase in visitors in 2022 compared to 2019, representing a total of 2.5 million international travellers. Qatar was then one of the few countries to surpass 2019 arrivals’ figures.

Another significant event generating a large number of visitors was the highly attended Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, which was taking place after being suspended for 2 years. One million pilgrims were permitted to attend last year, including 850,000 from abroad. These events also helped boost air transport. Middle Eastern airlines saw a 157.4% traffic rise in 2022 compared to 2021 with capacity increasing by 73.8% and the general load factor reaching again 75.8%.

According to UNWTO data, Middle East countries welcome 60.3 million international travellers, up from 24.7 million in 2021 and a low of 19.8 million in 2020.

Africa recovered at a slower pace having suffered form a lack of air connectivity last year, although it still recorded remarkable growth. According to the international air transport association IATA, African airlines’ annual traffic rose 89.2% in 2022, this compared to a 152.7% increase in total international air traffic.

According to preliminary UNWTO data, Africa reached a total of 45 million international arrivals last year, representing 65% of 2019 numbers. North Africa performed best with 19.1 million international arrivals. This already represents 75% of all 2019 arrivals.

Photo: ITB Berlin had a spectacular Egypt stand modelled after Cairo’s brand new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization. (Photo: LC/Cleverdis).