What is the MENA region?
The Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) is pretty much like it sounds: it is the central nexus of all travel in the Middle East and North African region. It has always been a crucially important part of world travel throughout human history, and it continues to be a hub of activity today as a hub of leisure travel and corporate travel worldwide. The region spans an incredibly diverse territory reaching all the way from Morocco to Iran, from Kazakhstan to Egypt, and it is a huge center of cultural and travel influence. What makes the MENA region so important as opposed to the European hubs?
What is the strategic importance of the Middle East and North Africa region?
The answer is simple, the Middle East and North African regions bring in corporate travel with its vast financial and corporate growth opportunities while those travelling for leisure come for one of the most culturally and historically rich regions of the world. With both the economic situation as well as the increase in leisure tourism to the region, the Middle East and North Africa region is only going to continue to be a hotbed of economic and travel activity.
The influx to the region is expected to become even more pronounced in the coming years. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, by the year 2030 there will be more than a hundred and fifty million tourists visiting this region of the world yearly. This will be an increase from 6% currently to 8% of all global tourists. But what are some of the most attractive aspects that are bringing in these kinds of tourist numbers? In some cases, it is the same iconic structures that have been bringing in tourists from Europe and around the world for thousands of years. Places like the Great Pyramids in Egypt continue to draw people worldwide and have done so for centuries. Considered by the ancient Greeks to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Pyramids in Egypt continue to top the list of some of the world’s favorite tourist sites to see. With a rich cultural heritage reaching back 3500 years and more, Egypt is an exceptional example of the kind of tourism that the Middle East and North Africa region see on a regular basis.
Egypt, however, is not alone in this exceptional cultural heritage that draws the attention of the world’s tourists. Many tourists go not only for historic reasons but also for religious ones and the center of the three great religions of the world all are in the Middle East. With the heart of Judaism and Christianity born in Israel and the soul of Islam in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East is perhaps considered rightly so to be the religious capital of the world. Christians, Jews, and Muslims have been making pilgrimages to the Middle East and to the Holy Land for millennia. The Haji alone in Mecca brings in hundreds of thousands of Muslim pilgrims every year, while the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Church of the Nativity also bring in millions of Christian pilgrims every year to visit the sacred sites.
New markets opening
Despite anything that happens in the region, the classic historical draws of Egypt, Israel, Syria, and Jordan all combine to help those markets bounce back despite any adversity. But new competition is also opening up. With the world relaxing its embargoes and travel restrictions on Iran, the Iranian tourist industry is beginning to bloom. With the building of new hotels, a strong outreach to fellow members in the Middle East and Europe, as well as featuring a rich cultural heritage, Iran could easily become a center of tourism in coming years. But Iran is not alone, as those seeking less historically themed travel destinations are finding that one of the greatest is the United Arab Emirates.
Travel growth to the United Arab Emirates has gone up exponentially. Their leisure travel industry in particular has managed to utilize their strategic location to be able to leverage high volumes of air traffic. Dubai in the United Arab Emirates has one of the most advanced airports in the world and handle as a hub intercontinental activity across four continents. Sitting at an ideal nexus point for Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, Dubai is in an ideal location to corner a growing market of regional travel. According to the UN World Tourism Organization, by 2020 the airports of Dubai will be moving over a hundred and twenty million people annually.
For many of these new tourists, Dubai will be their final destination. Featuring some of the most exceptional architecture ever seen in the world like Dubai Tower and the man-made artificial islands, Dubai is a center of both tourism and commercial growth. Here travelers will also find some of the most beautiful beaches in the Middle East, a positive business climate, and easy access to four continents, making the United Arab Emirates poised to become the world’s power house of travel and tourism industry. Dubai already is one of the most advanced technologically with a first class infrastructure designed to help promote tourism and global travel.
What of the future?
The growth of Middle East travel is not expected to decline anytime soon, and in fact many millions of new tourists who are visiting the region are not from Europe or North America but rather from the growing tourist power house of Asia. With the rising wealth of China and India, tens of millions of people are suddenly having access to world travel who previously did not. Not only that, but the wealth is being accumulated by many affluent young people who have a desire to see the world and enjoy the finer things of life. Coupling together some two billion potential tourists between China and India alone, the Middle East is often the first stop for the Asian market due to its ease of access. Oftentimes these destinations can be reached with direct flights of only a few hours depending on the location, so Asian tourists can arrive in the Middle East without multi-day travel schedules and multiple airport stops.
So what is the future of the MENA region? The future is explosive growth in corporate travel and leisure travel, and the continued booming of the worldwide travel industry with one of its major hubs in the Middle East. The future is bright and the opportunities plentiful for anyone willing to seize them.
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