The outlook for the Middle East's travel and tourism sector

25 October 2023 3 min. read

Insight Out Consulting and Phocuswright have released the 2023 edition of their joint annual ‘Middle East Travel Market Report’, shedding light into key trends and developments in the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors. A round-up of the report’s key takeaways for the region’s four largest markets.

United Arab Emirates
The UAE was one of the first destinations to fully recover its travel and tourism activities and is well-positioned to capitalise on the growing demand for travel and tourism, maintaining its leading position as the largest travel market in the Middle East.

Last year, the UAE’s travel market booked significant growth, up 101% on the year previous amid an accelerated post-pandemic recovery, with growth for 2023 forecasted to hit 10%.

The outlook for the Middle East's travel and tourism sector

The UAE’s travel scene growth is largely supported by the national government, which has invested significant funds and launched several initiatives such as the UAE Tourism Strategy, which aims to attract investments worth AED 100 billion and host 40 million hotel guests by 2031.

On the back of this outlook, the UAE’s hospitality sector is rapidly expanding – the number of hotel room keys is forecasted to surpass 200,000 keys by 2030, driven by the increasing number of tourists visiting the UAE and the growing demand for luxury hotels.

Notably, the UAE airline sector is also one of the most developed in the world, emphasized the Insight Out Consulting and Phocuswright report, with Emirates, Etihad Airways and FlyDubai being among the top 50 airlines in the world.

Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the fastest-growing travel market in the region, with a 107% increase in 2022 gross bookings compared to 2021 figures. By 2026, the market is expected to have grown by another 65%.

Saudi Arabia’s government is investing heavily in its tourism attractiveness and travel infrastructure. The government recently revealed its plans to invest $800 billion in its tourism sector over the next 10 years, as part of its Vision 2030.

Additionally, the government has also invested in improving critical infrastructure, such as airports, roads and hotels in order to realise this vision. This includes a number of mega projects, such as the Red Sea Project and Neom which are touted to attract millions of tourists to Saudi Arabia in the coming years.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has also eased visa requirements, which has significantly grown the number of leisure tourists coming into the country.

Further readingHow Saudi Arabia can boost its appeal for (global) sports tourism.


Qatar’s tourism sector witnessed a dramatic recovery in 2022, driven by the FIFA World Cup event, the continued expansion of Qatar’s infrastructure, and the increasing popularity of the country as a leisure destination.

The Qatar National Tourism Council is investing heavily in the country’s tourism sector, with plans to develop new hotels, attractions and cultural experiences, and has forecasted to welcome six to seven million visitors annually by 2030. Qatar Airways stands as a testament to this vision and has worked to continually expand its global footprint to support the country’s tourism sector.


While Egypt’s tourism levels are still below pre-pandemic levels, the country has witnessed significant improvement since 2020. This recovery is driven by a number of factors, including the depreciation of the Egyptian pound, and the government’s efforts to promote the country as a safe and attractive tourist destination.

Domestic tourism has been on the rise in Egypt in recent years, as Egyptians become more interested in exploring their own country. Additionally, Egypt’s wide variety of natural attractions has also made it well-suited for adventure tourism and green tourism, which is another growing trend in the region.