The ITIC Middle East Tourism Investment Session has presented their annual ATM Investment Summit meeting at ATM 2023.Exploring the economic outlook for regional tourism, the session also delved into the relationship between sustainability and investment in the sector as well as the growing opportunities for women in the Middle East, focusing on Oman as a case study.
Hosted by Gerald Lawless, Director ITIC Ltd, Invest Tourism Ltd and Ambassador WTTC, the summit opened with Nicolas Mayer, Global Tourism Leader PWC and Nicholas Maclean, Chairman and Managing Director CBRE Middle East. Sharing an optimistic view on the market Maclean said: “One of the key asset classes which is attracting special interest, particularly in the GCC is the opportunity for investors to capitalise on the hospitality industry. The profile of investors in the GCC is much more long term than in other markets around the world.”
Saudi Arabia is a particular growth area for the GCC region with the Kingdom recording 93.5 million tourists in 2022. Commenting on the investment situation in Saudi, Mayer said: “In Saudi Arabia there is an acceleration of not just hotels and rooms, but the creation of entire destinations which entails a number of different asset classes, be it in entertainment, human capacity building or experiences. The tourism industry is seen as a transformational sector when it comes to meeting sustainability goals and the sustainability aspect is now front and centre when it comes to investment in the Kingdom.”
The sustainability segment of the ITIC session was moderated by BBC Anchor Sameer Hashmi and the speakers for this session included: Amr El Kady, CEO, Egyptian Tourism Promotion Board; Dr. Abed Al Razzaq Arabiyat, Managing Director of Jordan Tourism Board, H.E. Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism Jamaica, Raki Phillips, CEO, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority; Maher Abou Nasr, Vice President Operations, KSA, IHG; and Hamza Farooqui, Founder & CEO, Millat Investments.
In terms of the challenges that sustainability presents to the tourism industry, aligning green policies across the public and private sector was highlighted as a priority. Global cooperation across countries is also vital as industry players work towards a common sustainability goal.
The panel agreed that beyond policy, ‘people’ are the most important consideration when it comes to sustainability in tourism. Bartlett concluded: “Globally, tourism is the fastest recovering industry since the pandemic, but growth has to be in harmony with sustainability. It’s about building people – because tourism is about people. We want to make sure that the beneficiaries of tourism, are the drivers of tourism. Tourism is about the environment and without the environment there is no tourism, therefore the sector has to be the custodian of climate management.”
According to the UN World Trade Organisation (WTO), women make up 54% of the workforce in tourism globally and almost a quarter of tourism ministers are women. Discussing the opportunities for women in tourism, Elizabeth Maclean, Co-Managing Director, Herdwick Communications interviewed Dr. Lubna Bader Salim Al Mazroei, Manager Economic Diversification Investments, Oman Investment Authority during the ITIC session.
Tourism is one of the main industries in Oman which is helping to diversify the economy and create employment opportunities for the local population. As part of its efforts to boost the tourism industry in the region, the Oman government established the Oman Tourism College in 2001. When the facility first opened, there were approximately 80 female students and this number has risen to 400 in 2023. Women now work across several areas of the local tourism industry with roles in hotels, airlines, restaurants and tours.
Concluding the session, Al Mazroei said: “Tourism is a dynamic and multidisciplinary industry with exciting opportunities to pursue. The nature of the work in the sector gives you the opportunity for personal development, as well as to develop interpersonal and technical skills that will help you with your career growth – and to find your competitive edge.
“When the Ministry of Tourism was established in Oman in 2004, the first Minister of Tourism was a woman. Our target is to create 500,000 jobs in Oman tourism by 2040 and to further strengthen the Oman tourism sector, we are implementing new education, training and employment initiatives. We have a dedicated Human Capital department that is overseeing all of the needs of the sector and this department is managed mostly by women.”