UAE tops MENA region in WEF's travel and tourism index

03 June 2024 2 min. read

The UAE has ranked first in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and 18th globally for its travel and tourism sector, according to this year’s edition of the Travel & Tourism Development Index by the World Economic Forum.

In addition to ranking first in the MENA region, the UAE was also one of the countries with the most improved score on the index since the last ranking in 2021. The UAE’s score was raised by 4.4%, making it the 7th most improved.

The index from the World Economic Forum, a global think tank and the brainchild behind the annual Davos meeting, ranks 119 economies worldwide on a wide range of factors, like travel and tourism policy, infrastructure, services, nature and cultures, and sustainability of the travel and tourism sector.

At the very top of the list across all categories was the United States. It was followed by Spain and Japan, both of which have a flourishing tourism industry with millions of visitors yearly.

As far as other MENA countries, Saudi Arabia was ranked second in the MENA region, followed by Israel, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and Jordan. Overall, however, the MENA region underperforms when compared to the average of the index.

The UAE shines particularly brightly in the category of air transport infrastructure, where the country ranked first of all nations worldwide. As far as tourist services and infrastructure, the UAE ranked 5th, which makes sense considering their many world-class hotels.

The Middle East – and especially the UAE – saw the quickest and most robust recovery to the tourism sector after the major hit from Covid-19. The recovery rate in numbers of international tourists was 20% above 2019 levels, while other regions had not yet even gotten back to pre-pandemic levels.

Other difficulties and obstacles like the macroeconomic climate, geopolitical turmoil, and natural disasters have also hindered a full recovery for the travel and tourism sector. Going forward, climate change and related dilemmas will continue to present major challenges.

“Driven by the end of pandemic-related restrictions and robust pent-up demand, global international tourist arrivals are expected to reach pre-pandemic levels in 2024, highlighting the resiliency of the travel and tourism sector and people’s strong desire to travel,” said Francisco Betti, member of the executive committee of the WEF.

“It has become critical for decision-makers and stakeholders to not just focus on improving sector readiness for future risks and opportunities, but also to ensure that the sector accounts for its economic, social, and environmental impact and is a driver of global prosperity,” he continued.