Travel and tourism growth in the UAE will rise to almost 15 per cent of the country's GDP within 10 years and be worth Dh277.8 billion (US$75.62bn) annually, according to research by a leading global tourism industry forum.
The figures come from a worldwide economic impact report on the industry, produced for the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). The report formed the background to the council's global summit this year, which closed in Tokyo yesterday with the handing over of responsibility for the 2013 summit, to be held in Abu Dhabi next April.
"The total contribution of travel and tourism to GDP in the United Arab Emirates was Dh175.0bn in 2011, equivalent to 13.5 per cent of GDP," the report stated. "That figure is expected to grow to Dh182.8bn by the end of 2012 and is then forecast to rise by 4.3 per cent per annum to Dh277.8bn by 2022, or 14.6 per cent of GDP."
In its analysis of the industry in the UAE, the report, compiled for the WTTC by the forecasting consultancy Oxford Economics, took account of the total contribution of travel and tourism and its "wider impacts" on the economy - in a variety of areas including airliner purchases and hotel construction.
The report looked at government spending on tourism, including marketing and promotion, aviation, administration, utility services for resorts and even security.
Spending on goods and services by the sectors dealing directly with tourists - including purchases of food and cleaning services by hotels, fuel and catering services by airlines, and IT services by travel agents - were measured, as was the spending by individuals directly or indirectly employed by the industry.
The direct contribution of travel and tourism to GDP, which reflects only "the economic activity generated by industries such as hotels, travel agents, airlines and other passenger transport and the activities of the restaurant and leisure industries directly supported by tourists", is forecast to rise by 4.6 per cent from last year to Dh87.7bn by the end of 2012, and to continue rising by more than 4 per cent a year to Dh132.4bn, or 7 per cent of GDP, by 2022.
The report also found that travel and tourism generated 166,000 jobs directly last year, equivalent to 4.6 per cent of total employment in the UAE, and this is forecast to grow by 4.2 per cent to 173,000 by the end of this year.
Jobs directly generated by travel and tourism include employment by hotels, travel agents, airlines and other passenger transport services, and restaurants and other leisure enterprises directly supported by tourists. By 2022, the report predicts, travel and tourism will account for 236,000 jobs directly, an increase of 3.2 per cent a year over the next 10 years.
The UAE figures come against a global performance by the industry that shows it to be double the size of vehicle manufacturing and about one third larger than chemicals manufacturing, the report said.
"The sector's total contribution to world GDP was US$6.3 trillion in 2011, equal to over 9 per cent of global GDP and in terms of employment, the importance of the sector is even more pronounced," said the report. "After education, travel and tourism is the top job creator, with twice as many jobs as created by financial services, communications, or auto manufacturing."
Last year, 98m people were directly employed in travel and tourism.
"These figures prove beyond any doubt that it is time that the world's governments really sit up and take notice of the travel and tourism industry," said David Scowsill, the president and chief executive of WTTC. "As a driver of economic recovery and growth in a very turbulent time, the industry stands apart for the sheer scale of its ability to create jobs and growth."