Gulf countries should do more to promote local tourism

skyscrapers at night

At first glance, it seems that gulf countries are doing a lot in order to attract foreign tourists to come and spend money to boost the local economies. Abu Dhabi is building a cultural island dedicated to museums with the Louvre set to open a branch there in 2015 and Dubai is bidding for the Expo 2020.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is encouraging private investment in Mecca and Qatar is set to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022, despite the to-ing and fro-ing over calendar timing of the event. In addition to that in Qatar are expanding the capacity of the local airports so that more passengers can travel from Europa to Asia.  You might say the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC, the bloc is prioritizing the tourism industry.

According to a recent report prepared by Booz & Co consultants, there are still a lot of things to be done for tourism in the region. The report indicates as main weaknesses the insufficient tourism offerings, and inconsistent investment flow and the spotty marketing efforts. In addition to that obtaining a visa for some of the countries in the region is also difficult for people from particular nationalities.

Last but not least, the scarcity of World heritage sites in the area is another factor that puts the tourism industry in these countries at a disadvantage. The tourist product that is offered in the Gulf countries is rather limited. Most of the countries there are focused just on a single niche. For Saudi, it’s religious tourism and Oman it’s the beaches, while Qatar and Bahrain try to offer a business-friendly environment, but little else, the consultants say.

Despite those shortcomings, many experts are united around the fact that the social unrest in many of the neighbouring countries such as Egypt, Lebanon and Syria provides a lot of opportunity for the tourism industry gulf countries, due to the safe haven status that they have.

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