Forum to map out Arab tourism strategies
Manama, May 20, 2013
Representatives of Arab countries are meeting in Bahrain to map out strategies to woo tourists to a region hit by political upheaval, a report said.
The Arab Tourism Ministers Council began discussions at the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage, near Bahrain National Museum, yesterday (May 19), reported the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
Those present included Culture Minister Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa; Sudanese Tourism, Archaeology and Environment Minister Mohammed Abdulkareem Alhidd; Arab League economic affairs deputy secretary-general Mohammed Al Tawajri; Arab Organisation of Tourism president Dr Bandar bin Fihaid Al Fihaid; and representatives of the Arab Tourism Writers Union.
"This meeting is important in terms of tourism because it discusses points that will led to essential decisions," said Al Tawajri.
"Tourism is an important source of national income - both steady and long-term. We could look at the tourism witnessed by Bahrain, which has had a deep impact. And the same thing applies to the Emirates and Egypt."
However, tourism in several countries in the region has been hit by violent uprisings since 2011, which have persuaded many potential visitors to look for alternative travel destinations.
This has had a knock-on effect on tourism-related business in the region, such as hotels and airlines.
However, Al Tawajri said one way to win back tourists was to promote the rich history of Arab countries, at the same time tapping into the latest trends in travel.
"We have a long history in the Arab countries and we have to showcase it," he said. "But we also have to see what is happening in the world in terms of latest trends and adopt it to further the Arab economy."
He added that tourism strategies in this part of the world were being undermined by inaccurate statistics.
"We suffer from a weakness in the statistical base and adopt long international estimates, which are based on inaccurate statistics," said Dr Al Tawajri.
However, there was some opposition during the meeting to the nomination of Erbil, a city in Iraq, as Capital of Arab Tourism for next year.
Shaikha Mai called for a rethink over the way such cities are selected.
"I think we have to look at the process through which cities are chosen," she said."Erbil is known to lean more towards a Kurdish identity than an Arab one and, as such, I feel it is an inappropriate place to choose as Capital of Arab Tourism. The places chosen as capital of tourism should, by their nature, have an Arab identity."
The forum also discussed creating a Capital of Summer Retreat every year, with the Capital of Arab Tourism at the time nominating the summer destination of choice.
Taif, a city in Saudi Arabia, was nominated by Manama as the Capital of Summer Retreat for this year.
The forum also created a committee to select a jury, which will pick the winner of an award for quality tourism in 2012.
Encouraging foreign investment in tourism and the importance of Arabs joining forces to fund investments was also highlighted.
The forum continues today. – TradeArabia News Service