Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are in the top 10 tourist destinations around the world which have experienced the largest growth in international visitors this year compared to 2019, according to travel analytics company ForwardKeys.

The analysis of international tourist arrivals by destination country in 2023, including bookings planned for the fourth quarter, reflected the continued recovery of the global tourism sector after the pandemic.

He Middle East and Africa Region was particularly well represented among the top 10 global actors.

Saudi Arabia ranked fifth in the world for international arrivals in 2023, returning to pre-Covid levels for inbound visitors and boosted by Hajj pilgrims, investment in marketing the country as a tourist destination and efforts to diversify its economy, according to the Global Travel Trends report. by ForwardKeys showed.

The kingdom followed the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Mexico and Greece in the top five, dominated by “sun and sand” destinations.

The UAE came in eighth on the list, with tourist arrivals this year just 7 per cent below pre-Covid levels, thanks to an influx of tourists from the US and Russia and strong air connectivity which has particularly helped attract more Chinese travelers to the country. .

Egypt was ranked the 10th top tourist destination globally, and international arrivals in 2023 are estimated to be 10 percent below pre-pandemic levels, partly due to the return of Russian travelers to the country and also because it returned to tourists bucket. listed as a historic destination.

Data on international tourist arrivals around the world showed “significant differences” between regions, Olivier Ponti, vice president of insights at ForwardKeys, said at a news conference Friday at the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit in Rwanda.

“Africa and the Middle East were the only regions in the world moving from recovery to growth in the fourth quarter,” he said.

International tourist arrivals to the region so far this year were 14 percent below pre-pandemic levels, but are expected to grow 2 percent in the fourth quarter, according to the report.

The global recovery in tourist arrivals will also accelerate towards the end of the year.

Globally, inbound tourism this year is 27 percent behind 2019 levels, but the recovery will accelerate in the fourth quarter to 13 percent below pre-Covid levels.

Data shows that travelers leaving the United States and Canada and visiting other parts of the world are driving the global travel recovery.

The outlook for travel and tourism in 2023 is an “expression of cautious optimism” due to the war between Israel and Gaza, which has dragged on for almost a month, and the continuing war in Ukraine, Ponti said.

“There is an impact in recent weeks. “We have started to see this with cancellations (of trips), not only to Israel but also to several neighboring destinations,” he said.

“In destinations that were doing well, like Egypt and Jordan, there is a negative impact of this war,” Ponti said, pointing to an increase in booking cancellations.

“But there is also a delayed impact, which is that all those new bookings are not made or are directed to other destinations,” he said.

“It’s very similar to other crises we’ve seen: either the crisis is short-lived and the impact will be limited in time because people will usually forget about it within a month and bookings will start to come back,” he said.

“But if the situation continues, then the perception of tourists changes and it is seen as a region that is not safe and the damage is much worse.”


There is a lot of energy and a lot of effort that is going to bear fruit and I don’t see why 2024 wouldn’t be a successful year if the conflict in Israel doesn’t boil over.

Olivier Ponti, Vice President of Insights at ForwardKeys

Destinations in the Middle East have a “key role to play” in changing foreign visitors’ perceptions of the region and the geopolitical nuances within it, Ponti said. The National outside the event.

“They must make it clear that the region is not a one-size-fits-all solution. There are different countries in different situations and the risk is that the further you are from a destination, the more likely you are to add this like: “this is the Middle East, there’s a war there, so I’m not going to go.” ,” he said.

Despite the war between Israel and Gaza, destinations in the Middle East “have some good cards in hand” in terms of strong air connections to the world and diversified tourism offerings, he said.

Dubai has established itself as a leisure destination, while Saudi Arabia is investing “massively” in its tourism sector that will generate more visibility for the country and the wider region, Ponti said.

“There is a lot of energy and a lot of effort that is going to bear fruit and I don’t see why 2024 wouldn’t be a successful year if the conflict in Israel doesn’t spill over,” he said.

Updated: November 4, 2023, 3:00 am