Despite the difficulties the tourism sector has been facing, 2022 has brought reason to be cautiously optimistic, as a significant recovery has been taking place. Government support in the UAE has been instrumental throughout the crisis.
The travel and tourism industry empowers socio-economic development and directly impacts factors like job creation and poverty reduction. Some benefits of the tourism industry go beyond its direct impact on GDP, including the projection (and protection) of national culture, new employment opportunities, and indirect gains such as cross-sector supply chain linkages. However, COVID-19 had a significant impact on the industry. Around 62 million jobs were lost, leaving just 271 million employed across the sector globally. With 2020 and the first half of 2021 characterised by extended periods of lockdowns and severe travel restrictions, the tourism industry has suffered unprecedented challenges. According to World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) statistics, travel and tourism was one of the world’s largest sectors before the pandemic accounting for 1 in 4 of all new jobs created in the world, 10.3 per cent of all jobs (333 million), and 10.3 per cent of global GDP (USD 9.6 trillion).
The path to recovery
The recovery of the global travel and tourism sector began in 2021. However, it was slower than expected due to the recurrence of COVID-19 variants such as Omicron, stringent border restrictions, nationwide and state-specific travel restrictions, and inconsistent travel regulations. The reawakening of the global economy in several countries, accompanied by a labour shortage in key tourism industry roles, leading to delays in visa processing and reductions in transport reliability impacted the growth trajectory of the sector. Despite the difficulties the tourism sector has been facing, 2022 has brought reason to be cautiously optimistic, and indeed in some settings, a significant recovery has been taking place. While government support has been instrumental throughout this crisis, the recovery of the sector has benefitted from the provision of clear and coherent rules related to cross-border travel, vaccination, and PCR testing. Several initiatives such as The National Disinfection Program and Safe Distancing Rules and a nationwide vaccination campaign were introduced to increase the preparedness for future crises. The government in the UAE allocated a flexible stimulus budget amounting to AED 256 billion and took exceptional measures to curb the potential threats imposed by the pandemic.
UAE tourism in 2022
The tourism sector in the UAE is now all set to reap benefits from the timely adoption of best practises in tourism.
Emerging concepts of ‘staycations’ – The concept of a staycation has gained new meaning in this era, as people opted for workcations and increasingly stayed longer at destinations in and around the UAE.
Growth of sustainable tourism – Being a perfect blend of multiple cultures and a destination of rich heritage, the UAE has always worked towards supporting local communities, protecting natural landscapes, as well as raising awareness of the importance of a transition to more sustainable practice (e.g., through Expo 2020).
Digital revolution in tourism – Encouraged by a wide range of traveller needs, the tourism industry has been rapidly moving towards digital solutions that forge deeper engagement for global and domestic travellers.