Tourism in the Gulf: Ready for Takeoff

With Dubai announcing plans to double its economy by pledging $8.7 trillion for economic development, the UAE’s $27 billion plan to develop tourism, Saudi Arabia’s target of attracting 25 million foreign tourists in 2023, and the region’s growing appeal as a historical and cultural attraction, the Arabian Gulf’s tourism industry is primed for rapid growth.

With a concerted drive from regional governments to establish the Gulf as a global economic and travel epicentre, tourists, businesses, and entrepreneurs are responding to these efforts in significant numbers. Tourism is set to exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2023, bringing lucrative business investment and development opportunities.

Here, we explore the upcoming developments and initiatives set to make the Gulf an international tourism hub in 2023 and beyond.  

New Hotels and Attractions

Significant investments is being made in new hotels and attractions to transform the Arabian Gulf into a world-class tourist destination. These developments, designed to appeal to more tourists and offer spectacular experiences, drive significant economic growth and create regional job opportunities.

One such investment area is the development of luxury hotels. Dubai is already home to the world’s tallest hotel, the 356-metre-high Gevora, and it plans to top this by building the Ciel Dubai, which will be 365 metres tall. Saudi Arabia aims to attract over 100 million annual visitors by the end of the decade, investing in unprecedented ecotourism initiatives such as the Amaala project, planning to build more than 3,000 rooms across 25 different hotels. The scale of this hotel development in Saudi alone expects to see an increase of 67.1% room supply over the next three years, according to STR. Such large-scale developments create new job opportunities in the hospitality sector and cater to tourists’ increasing demand for high-end accommodation options.

In addition to the new hotels, the Arabian Gulf region is also witnessing the development of exciting new attractions. The Qiddiya entertainment city, for example, is a new theme park being developed in Saudi Arabia, promising to offer a variety of entertainment options to visitors, including theme parks, water parks, cultural experiences, and sports facilities. Dubai is also developing new theme parks, with the Real Madrid theme park opening in 2023.

Another notable development in the region is the Red Sea project, an eco-friendly tourism destination on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast. The project will offer a unique blend of adventure and luxury, including activities such as diving, snorkelling, and water sports.

Government Initiatives

The Arabian Gulf’s recent shift from an oil-based economy to a tourism hub has been spearheaded by government-led initiatives. Sustainability is at the heart of this fundamental change, with the region’s governments endeavouring to reduce their carbon footprint and promote sustainable tourism.

For instance, the Dubai Electric Vehicle Roadmap is an initiative aimed at encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles in the city, reducing emissions and promoting a greener environment. Another innovative scheme, The Green Building Code, establishes standards for building design and construction to minimise the environmental impact of buildings.

These initiatives make the region an environmentally-friendly tourist destination and show the area’s commitment to a green, climate-friendly, carbon-neutral future. With an increasing number of travellers looking for destinations that align with their values, such governmental projects encourage modern tourists to the area. Additionally, these initiatives promote the use of clean energy, a critical factor in reducing the carbon footprint and mitigating the effects of climate change.

Growing Popularity

With tourism levels set to exceed pre-pandemic levels, foreign tourism interest in the Arabian Gulf is at record highs. The area’s growing reputation as a desirable tourism destination is due to several distinctive factors that make the Gulf stand out in the global tourism industry.

One of the main reasons behind the Gulf’s growing popularity is its unique blend of modern and traditional experiences. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are home to iconic landmarks such as the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, and the Louvre Abu Dhabi, a museum that showcases a diverse collection of art and culture from around the world.

These modern attractions are complemented by traditional experiences such as a visit to the Al Ain Oasis in Abu Dhabi, which offers a contrasting glimpse into the region’s historical and cultural heritage. Such a dynamic mix of the modern and the traditional appeals to a wide range of travellers, from those seeking the latest in luxury and technology to those interested in exploring the area’s rich history and cultural traditions.

Another factor contributing to the Gulf’s growing popularity is its emphasis on luxury and hospitality. For example, Dubai boasts a wide range of luxury shopping centres, including the Dubai Mall and the Mall of the Emirates, which provide visitors with high-end shopping and dining options. And for those with a taste for the outdoors, the Gulf’s warm climate and scenic natural beauty, including stunning beaches, lush green parks, and rolling deserts, make it a fabulous destination for sun, sport and adventure seekers.

Business and Entrepreneurial Potential

The booming tourism industry in the Arabian Gulf presents many opportunities for entrepreneurs looking to establish businesses in the region. With the growing influx of tourists in the Gulf, there is a huge demand for services such as hospitality, transportation, food and beverage, retail and entertainment.

The hospitality industry is one of the most promising areas for entrepreneurship in the tourism sector, and the demand for quality accommodation, in the form of luxury hotels and vacation rentals, is on the rise in the Gulf. Entrepreneurs can leverage this opportunity by investing in the construction and management of hotels, resorts, and serviced apartments.

The retail sector is also a significant contributor to the growth of the local tourism industry. Tourists are always on the lookout for unique and authentic shopping experiences, and entrepreneurs can potentially tap into this market by setting up shops selling locally sourced products, souvenirs, and gifts.

Finally, the entertainment sector is another growing area of the Gulf tourism industry. From theme parks to water parks, and from movie theatres to concert venues, there is a growing demand for recreational activities for tourists.

Take Away

The Arabian Gulf is set for significant growth in the tourism sector, with a surge in hotel development, new attractions, and supportive government initiatives. Combined with the increasing popularity of the Gulf among travellers worldwide, it is clear that the region is poised to become a premier leisure hub in the coming years.

The travel industry should take note of these developments, as the Arabian Gulf will undoubtedly play a significant role in shaping the future of the global tourism market.

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