Arab Spring results in $96bn loss

© Arab News 2012  
JEDDAH: The ongoing political turmoil in certain Arab countries hit the tourism sector. So far, these states have lost $96 billion since the start of the Arab Spring, 18 percent of the losses in the tourism sector, said Bandar Al-Fuhaid president of the Arab Tourism Organization.

Al-Fuhaid  added that the crisis in the region is also affecting the decision making process in his organization. "Our role has become difficult because tourism is intertwined with security and we cannot promote tourism in countries that are unstable, as any promotion will mean being dishonest with tourists and visitors."

Al-Fuhaid called for cooperation among the Arab states and international communities to overcome challenges facing the tourism sector in the region. "We are implementing our programs as much as possible."

An Arab-Turkish forum is being held this year to help build more tourism relations between Turkey and Arab states.

This was stated at a press conference held by the Arab Organization for Tourism to honor former Omani Tourism Minister Abdul Malik Al-Khalili, winner of the international prize for tourism in the field of leadership and creativity. Muscat was also mentioned as the Arab capital for Tourism 2012. "Muscat has been chosen by a committee of 7 Arab countries and the Arab Tourism Organization," said Al-Fuhaid.

Al-Khalili said that although the Arab culture had a tradition of welcoming anyone visiting their homes, this concept has assumed tremendous importance as it has become part of the economy and needs to be promoted vigorously as its contribution to the national economy is significant. "Introducing the concept of tourism should start from schools and become part of the curriculum."

In Oman, he said, there is focus on tourism due to its importance in the national  economy and not merely to attract large numbers of tourists.

According to him, though Gulf tourists visiting Oman constitute 68 percent of all visitors the Arabs generally prefer to travel during the summer time to visit malls and beaches. This he said is contrary to the practice of foreigners who seek to visit Oman in winter for its adventure and outdoor tourism.