Opportunities in Africa and Middle East were the topic of focus in WTM 2018

Gastrodiplomacy in Jordan plans for Expo 2020 in Dubai, opportunities in Africa and the latest travel trends for the region were all hotly debated topics in the Middle East & Africa Inspiration Zone at WTM London.

Increased security, rising demand and growing competition in the Middle East and Africa region is opening up tourism, according to Euromonitor’s Travel Trends research.

Senior analyst Lea Meyer told the audience at the Middle East & Africa Inspiration Zone inbound arrivals are expected to record a compound aggregate growth rate (CAGR) of six percent between now and 2023, making MEA (the Middle East and Africa) one of the fastest-growing regions, second only to the Asia Pacific. In the same time period, MEA is set to be the second fastest growing region in terms of disposable income.

The audience was also given a snapshot of the latest developments for Expo 2020, the hugely anticipated mega-event taking place in Dubai in two years’ time.

Expo 2020 will open on October 20, for six months, closing on April 10, during which 25 million people are expected to visit.

Laura Faulkner, UK Commissioner, Expo 2020 Dubai, described the event as “the largest event on earth. The Olympics of tourism.”

There has been much talk about the ‘African Century’, in which the region realises its full economic, cultural and sporting potential, yet rising debt in some nations is stunting growth. Tourism is a key driver of success, the Inspiration Zone heard.

Cathy Dean, CEO of Save the Rhino International, said that countries often shy away from talking about their conservation challenges for fear of frightening tourists away, but they should be more open.

“Make your tourists aware of the issues – believe me you will take them with you. You won’t turn them off,” she said.