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79400 08 Nov 2018

Middle East & Africa Trends the Focus for WTM London Day Three

Increased security, rising demand and growing competition in the MEA region is opening up tourism.

Gastrodiplomacy in Jordan, plans for Expo 2020 in Dubai, opportunities in Africa and the latest travel trends for the region were all hotly debated topics in the Middle East & Africa Inspiration Zone on Day Three of WTM London – where Ideas Arrive.

Increased security, rising demand and growing competition in the Middle East and Africa region is opening up tourism, according to Euromonitor’s Travel Trends research.

Senior analyst Lea Meyer told the audience at the Middle East & Africa Inspiration Zone inbound arrivals are expected to record a compound aggregate growth rate (CAGR) of 6% between now and 2023, making MEA one of the fastest-growing regions, second only to Asia Pacific. In the same time period, MEA is set to be the second fastest growing region in terms of disposable income.

Tunisia is expected to achieve a 3.5% CAGR between 2018-2023, largely due to the return of traditional European tourists, the country’s main source market. Saudi Arabia is forecast to achieve a CAGR of 7.4%. For the first time in 2018, Saudi Arabia issued tourist visas, as part of its strategy of boosting international visitor figures.

The audience was also given a snapshot of the latest developments for Expo 2020, the hugely anticipated mega-event taking place in Dubai in two years’ time.

Expo 2020 will open on October 20 for six months, closing on April 10, during which time 25 million people are expected to visit.

Laura Faulkner, UK commissioner, Expo 2020 Dubai, described the event as “the largest event on earth. The Olympics of tourism”.

The UK is among 180 countries that will have a presence at Expo. Visitors to the UK area will be able to visit ‘a pavilion that will speak to the world’, called the Poem Pavilion, where people will be asked to submit a word in any language which will then be put together with other submitted words using Artificial Intelligence to write poems. The words will be projected onto a wall of light visible throughout the Expo site.

“Poetry is part of the DNA of the UK and also part of the Arabic culture. We will see it become part of a never-ending digital legacy,” said Faulkner.

There has been much talk about the ‘African Century’, in which the region realises its full economic, cultural and sporting potential, yet rising debt in some nations is stunting growth. Tourism is a key driver of success, the Inspiration Zone heard.

Belise Kariza, chief tourism officer, Tourism and Conservation Department at the Rwanda Development Board, explained how “community empowerment” and addressing safety and security concerns have been key to putting Rwanda on the tourism map.

Cathy Dean, CEO of Save the Rhino International, said countries often shy away from talking about their conservation challenges for fear of frightening tourists away, but they should be more open.

“Make your tourists aware of the issues – believe me you will take them with you. You won’t turn them off,” she said. 

Gillian Saunders, special adviser to the Minister of Tourism in South Africa, said one of the biggest opportunities for tourism growth around the continent is inter-African tourism.

“We get bogged down with international figures, but one of our biggest opportunities has to be inter-African tourism. We have great airlines, but inter-connectivity on our continent is horrific. We’d get more tourists if we liberalised airlift and opened up by-lateral agreements. We also need to invest in sustainability, responsible tourism, safety and security as well as marketing and promotion.”

Four inspirational people who have done their bit to change the world we live in for the better –Fiona Jeffery OBE, founder of Just A Drop; Paras Loomba, founder of social impact tourism enterprise Global Himalayan Expedition, which provides energy and education access to remote off-grid communities in Ladakh, India; Ben Morison, founder of the Flipflopi Project, building a 60ft sailing dhow entirely from plastic waste collected from beach clean ups in Kenya and Holly Budge, founder of How Many Elephants, which educates people about the devastating impact of the elephant ivory trade – shared their experiences in the Middle East & Africa Inspiration Zone.

Fiona Jeffery said: “I would like everybody to do something, to act on a sense of responsibility and to make a difference.  Just a Drop does not do it alone. We need support of our corporate partners to make it happen. Together we are all making a difference.”

Meanwhile, World Food Travel Association founder Erik Wolf detailed how food and drink can be used as tools to foster understanding and even peace, while Jordan Tourism Board managing director Dr Abed Al Razzaq Arabiyat shared insight into how his country is leading the way in ‘gastrodiplomacy’.


About World Travel Market

World Travel Market (WTM) portfolio comprises six leading B2B events across four continents, generating more than $7 billion of industry deals. The events are:

WTM London, the leading global event for the travel industry, is the must-attend three-day exhibition for the worldwide travel and tourism industry. About 50,000 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international media visit ExCeL London every November, generating about £3.1 billion of travel industry contracts. Next event: 5-7 November 2018 – London.

Travel Forward is a new travel technology event co-located with WTM London 2018 and part of the WTM portfolio of events. The inaugural Travel Forward conference, exhibition and buyer programme will take place on 5–7 November 2018 at ExCeL London, showcasing next-generation technology for travel and hospitality.

WTM Latin America attracts about 9,000 senior executives and generates about US$374 million of new business. Taking place in Sao Paulo, Brazil, this show attracts a global audience to meet and shape the direction of the travel industry. More than 8,000 unique visitors attend the event to network, negotiate and discover the latest industry news. Next event: 2-4 April 2019 – Sao Paulo.

WTM Africa launched in 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa. Nearly 5,000 travel industry professionals attend Africa’s leading inbound and outbound travel and tourism market. WTM Africa delivers a proven mix of hosted buyers, media, pre-scheduled appointments, on-site networking, evening functions and invited travel trade visitors.

Next event: 10-12 April 2019 – Cape Town.

Arabian Travel Market is the leading, international travel and tourism event in the Middle East for inbound and outbound tourism professionals. ATM 2018 attracted almost 40,000 industry professionals, with representation from 141 countries over the four days. The 25th edition of ATM showcased over 2,500 exhibiting companies across 12 halls at Dubai World Trade Centre. To find out more, please visit:

Next event: 28th April-1st May 2019 – Dubai.

About Reed Exhibitions

Reed Exhibitions is the world’s leading events business, enhancing the power of face-to-face through data and digital tools at more than 500 events a year, in more than 43 countries, attracting more than seven million participants. Reed’s events are held in the Americas, Europe, Asia Pacific and Africa and organised by 41 fully staffed offices. Reed Exhibitions serves 43 industry sectors with trade and consumer events. It is part of RELX Group plc, a world-leading provider of information solutions for professional customers across industries.

About Reed Travel Exhibitions

Reed Travel Exhibitions is the world’s leading travel and tourism events organiser with a growing portfolio of more than 22 international travel and tourism trade events in Europe, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Our events are market leaders in their sectors, whether they are global and regional leisure travel trade events, or specialist events for meetings, incentives, conference, events (MICE) industry, business travel, luxury travel, travel technology as well as golf, spa and ski travel. We have more than 35 years’ experience in organising world-leading travel exhibitions.