Hospitality Hotspots: The Latest Middle East & North Africa Tourism Statistics [2022-2023]
The latest Middle East & North Africa tourism statistics from top-performing countries based on the latest third-party and TrustYou data [2022-2023]
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) travel industry benefited from one of the strongest recoveries last year, especially the Middle East. While the global recovery was estimated at 63% in 2022, arrivals in the Middle East reached 83% of pre-pandemic numbers. Hosting FIFA World Cup was a major contributor to the success and increase of tourism there. In Q4 2022, the region registered a 4% increase in arrivals compared to 2019, way above the global numbers (a 30% decrease compared to 2019).
What Guest Reviews Tell Us About the State of Travel
We analyzed more than 128 million guest reviews from our global hotel database - here’s what they tell us about the state of travel in 2022.
In Q1 2023, the Middle East was the best tourism performer worldwide, registering a 15% increase in tourism arrivals compared to 2019, based on a report by HSBC. Qatar and Saudi Arabia were the top-performing destinations for tourist arrivals globally. The report also highlights that the Middle East has the highest share of GDP from tourism - 5%.
MENA is a dynamic and diverse region with much to offer for leisure and business travelers: luxurious hotels and restaurants, rich culture and traditions, breathtaking scenery, and historical landmarks.
To give you an overview of the state of MENA travel, we looked at the top-performing MENA countries based on guest feedback and compiled the latest third-party and TrustYou statistics.
#1 Top-Performing Countries in MENA
Using TrustYou’s Performance Score, we looked at the top-performing countries in terms of reputation. Performance Score is a metric showing an accommodation’s and/or restaurant’s average rating over a selected period. For this list, we chose the countries with the highest review volumes - over 100k reviews in 2022 and 50k reviews in Q1-Q2 2023. We ordered the countries with the same performance score based on the highest review volume.
What makes these countries receive higher scores from travelers? We decided to take a deep dive into the latest statistics to understand the specifics of each country and identify emerging trends.
#2 Morocco Tourism Statistics
First Signs of a Strong Year
Morocco's tourism sector experienced an impressive rebound in the first seven months of 2023, generating revenue of MAD 57.2 billion ($5.6 billion), a 50.9% increase compared to the same period in 2022. In July 2023, tourism revenues surpassed pre-pandemic levels from July 2019, reaching MAD 41.4 billion.
According to the Tourism Observatory, overnight stays increased by 86% in the first half of 2023 compared to last year. The increase is mainly attributed to non-resident arrivals, which grew an impressive 134%.
Marrakech registered the best performance across city destinations - 115% increase in overnight stays, followed by Agadir - 80%.
France saw the most impressive growth in main markets -75% more tourists visited Morocco compared to 2022.
Onwards and Upwards
In Q1-Q3 2022, Morocco ranked third among the most visited Arab countries, with 11 million visitors, representing 84% of the 2019 numbers. Saudi Arabia ranked 1st, with 18 million visitors, followed by United Arab Emirates (UAE), with 15 million visitors.
Last year, the sector's revenue more than doubled compared to 2021, reaching 91 billion dirhams, exceeding 2019 levels.
The historic success of the national team at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar brought more than a sense of unprecedented pride for the North-African country—the interest in visiting Morocco surged in the first months of 2023. Forty days after the World Cup, the country registered a 40% increase in arrivals.
By the end of February 2023, 1.9 million tourists visited Morocco, 464% more than in 2022.The authorities seek ways to capitalize on these successes and substantially boost the sector. By 2026, Morocco aims to reach the top 10 global destinations and increase its arrivals to 17.5 million tourists. The actions that will help achieve these targets include launching new air routes, 200k new jobs, and a $580 million investment in the sector.
The latest data for Q1 2023 shows a record growth: tourist arrivals increased by 17% compared to the the same period in 2019: 2.9 million tourists visited the country in the first three months.
Top Areas to Improve for Morocco Hotels Q1-Q2 2023
Impact Scores leverage all review data for hotels and fill in the gaps between what people say and how that impacts the scores they leave. With the help of semantic analysis, we extract all relevant data from all reviews. This way, we can estimate the impact that, for example, room maintenance had on a performance score in a particular period. These scores reflect different semantic categories (Service, WiFi, Parking, Location, etc.).
Here are the top areas Moroccan hotels can improve based on our impacts:
Quarterly, there are no significant changes. In Q2 2023, Bathroom was more likely to bring lower scores than Room Cleanliness. These are the same subcategories that were most likely to decrease the performance scores of Moroccan hotels in 2022. Travelers are concerned about cleanliness, health, and safety measures - a globally applicable priority.
Morocco Types of Travelers - Q1 2023
The segment couples registered the highest increase when compared to the entire year 2022. There is a slight decrease in the family segment, but we expect it will rebound in Q2 2023 and Q3 2023, corresponding to summer vacations for families with children.
Morocco is the second preferred destination for couples among all MENA countries analyzed.
#3 Qatar Tourism Statistics
The Best Year for Tourism?
The latest data from Tourism Qatar shows an impressive start for 2023, with 2.34 million international arrivals until July 2023, almost double compared to 2019. May and June were the busiest months in the last ten years.
At this pace, we’ll see Qatar surpassing the 2022 numbers. Unlike other countries still recovering from COVID-19 in 2022, Qatar registered one of its best years, being the FIFA World Cup host, with international arrivals reaching 2,56 million.
This impressive increase shows the continuous effort of Qatar authorities to place the destination at the top of the list for travelers worldwide, offering a wide range of activities for tourists, from attractions to a busy schedule of events and shows.
What’s next after the World Cup?
The FIFA World Cup brought an impressive number of visitors to Qatar. In November and December 2022, international arrivals more than tripled compared to the previous months.
This event placed QATAR on the world tourism map, with authorities aiming to increase the country’s attractiveness.
By 2030, Qatar wants to reach 6 million tourists annually and increase tourism contribution to GDP from 7% to 12%. Immediately after the World Cup, Qatar registered another win. Doha was chosen as the Arab Capital of Tourism awarded by the Arab Ministerial Council for Tourism, proving its commitment to improving its performance as a destination. Among other indicators of excellence, Qatar Airlines have been chosen for the seventh time as the best airline worldwide, based on 14 million surveys distributed across 100 countries by Skytrax.
The first numbers for 2023 also show an encouraging recovery. Qatar Tourism reports 340k arrivals in January 2023 and 389k in February 2023.
Further plans include hosting a few sports events - the 2023 Asian Football Cup and the Asia Games. Qatar is also preparing its candidacy for the 2036 Olympic Games. All these actions will help leverage the stadiums built to host the FIFA World Cup.
Top Areas to Improve for Qatar Hotels Q1-Q2 2023
Here are the top areas Qatar hotels can improve based on our impacts:
These are the same subcategories that were most likely to decrease the performance of Qatar hotels in 2022. A global trend, cleanliness continues to be a priority for travelers worldwide. A specific impact for Qatar we saw in our 2022 data is TV. Consider offering more channels or upgrading your equipment to get higher scores.
Qatar Types of Travelers - Q1 2023
Qatar sees a higher proportion of business travelers, coming second after United Arab Emirates in Q1 2023 and sharing the 1st place in 2022. Both countries are known for their strong focus on event tourism.
#4 United Arab Emirates Tourism Statistics
When thinking about the Emirates, one place is at the top of the mind of almost every tourist: Dubai. In 2022, the iconic destination welcomed nearly 14.4 million overnight visitors, a 97% increase from 2021 and 86% of the 2019 volume - above the global averages for recovery indicators. The occupancy rate also increased - from 67% in 2021 to 73% in 2022.
The beginning of 2023 is more than encouraging. The first numbers for January and February show a 42% increase in tourism visitors compared to last year.
In 2023, a new decade starts for Dubai’s economy and tourism with the Dubai Economic Agenda D33. The strategy aims to double the size of Dubai’s economy by 2033 and place it among the top three global cities for tourism and business.
Setting New Records in 2023
Dubai is among the few destinations that exceeded the 2019 numbers. In the first half of 2023, the luxurious city received 2% more tourists than in 2019. The first quarter was particularly successful, setting an all-time performance record.
According to the Tourism Performance Report launched by Dubai Tourism, the top three source markets were Western Europe (19%), South Asia (18%) and the Gulf Cooperation Countries (16%).
Top 5 source markets - countries*
#1 India - 1.42 million visitors
#2 Russia - 673k visitors
#3 Saudi Arabia - 665k visitors
#4 UK - 637k visitors
#5 Oman - 605k visitors
*Data for January - July 2023, source: https://www.dubaitourism.gov.ae/en/research-and-insights/tourism-performance-report-july-2023 .
The Dubai airport also recorded a notable growth in passenger traffic - 49% more in the first half of 2023, compared to 2022, exceeding 2019. The airport has adjusted its estimation from 83.6 million to 85 million passengers for 2023.
Scrapping Taxes to Boost Tourism
Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are revising certain taxes to make the tourism sector more attractive for travelers and industry professionals. Since the beginning of 2023, Dubai has no longer applied the 30% municipality tax on alcohol. Tourists and ex-pats don’t have to pay fees to get an individual liquor license for purchasing alcohol.
Abu Dhabi is also scrapping taxes in an effort to boost event tourism. Organizers are now exempted from the 10% tax per ticket sold.
Top Areas to Improve for UAE Hotels Q1-Q2 2023
Here are the top areas UAE hotels can improve based on our impacts:
The areas leading to lower scores are similar to 2022. Overall, we see this trend at the global level when looking at specific categories to improve. Poor room cleanliness and lack of attention to detail in cleaning the bathrooms can significantly impact the guests' experience, leading to dissatisfaction and lower ratings. Room maintenance issues such as broken fixtures, malfunctioning equipment, or poorly functioning amenities can negatively impact guests' comfort and experience, resulting in a lower rating.
UAE Types of Travelers - Q1 2023
Business travelers have a higher proportion in UAE than in other countries due to its strong focus on the events sector. It is also one of the most popular destinations among Solo travelers.
#5 Israel Tourism Statistics
Prepping the Stage for 2024
In the first six months of 2023, Israel registered 1.97 million visitors, 12.8% less than in 2019. Two markets are lagging due to the ongoing conflict in Europe. The demand from Russian and Ukrainian travelers has significantly decreased. Russia was the second source market for Israel before the war.
The number of Americans visiting the country increased instead. Compared to 2019, there are 12% more visits registered from the US. Another source market with impressive growth was the Philippines - 40% more arrivals compared to 2019. Israel and the Philippines have an agreement allowing 59 days of visa-free travel for their citizens.
Authorities estimate that 3.9 million tourists will visit Israel this year, compared to 4.55 million in 2019. 2024 has the potential to break the record in terms of travelers. However, experts warn that the country still needs to address ongoing challenges, including a continuous surge in prices in the travel sector.
The Holy Land welcomed 2.7 million international visitors in 2022 - 60% compared to 2019. The first data for 2023 shows an accelerated recovery - 199% more tourists visited the country compared to Q1 2022, reaching 87% of pre-pandemic levels.
Tourism Continues to Be VAT Exempt After Pressures From the Industry
The Netanyahu government planned to cancel the 17% tax on services exemption for tourists starting with the next state budget. Currently, travelers visiting Israel are exempt from the tax on accommodation, car rental, travel agency services, catering, etc. The government estimated that reintroducing the tax can generate up to $500 million yearly. But industry experts said the losses would be more significant than the gains. This proposal, which also was rejected in 2013, didn’t pass a ministerial committee.
Top Areas to Improve for Israel Hotels Q1-Q2 2023
Here are the top areas Israel hotels can improve based on our impacts:
Like the other MENA countries, Israeli hotels are more likely to receive lower Room Cleanliness and Maintenance scores. A specific impact for Israeli hotels is WiFi. We didn’t see this subcategory in our 2022 analysis for the country. A stable and reliable internet connection is a priority for guests worldwide - WiFi was the second factor worldwide that could decrease a hotel’s ratings in 2022.
Israel Types of Travelers - Q1 2023
Percentage-wise, Israel is the most preferred destination for couples across the MENA countries we analyzed. This category recorded a slight increase when compared to the entire 2022. We also see a slight growth in Business and Solo Travelers.
#6 Egypt Tourism Statistics
Towards a More Sustainable Travel Sector
In November 2022, Egyptian authorities launched an initiative targeted at the travel sector to support the Sustainable Development Strategy 2030.
Hotels can apply for a Green Star Hotel certification provided at the national level and recognized by international bodies. As of September 2023, 158 hotels are GSH-certified, most in the South Sinai (29%) and El Gouna (24%) regions.
In the first half of 2023, Egypt recorded 7 million tourist arrivals. The authorities are confident in reaching the projected 15 million visits for 2023. Tourism is a vital sector of Egypt’s economy, with an estimated contribution to the GDP of 12%.
Egypt recorded a 46% growth in the number of tourists in 2022 compared to 2021. Last year, 11.7 million visitors entered the country of pyramids.
Authorities expect a 28% increase in the number of tourists in 2023. The recent data for the first months of the year indicate a strong beginning. In February and March alone, the number of tourists increased by 34% compared to 2022.
An Ambitious Strategy
According to the recently adopted tourism strategy, the government aims to attract 30 million tourists by 2030. This will be possible if the yearly growth reaches 25%-30%.
Doubling the hotel rooms, enhancing air connectivity, investing in promotional projects, and improving the overall visitors’ experience are among the main priorities to help boost tourism.
Among the first actions taken by the government are focused on simplifying the visa process. In March, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced that citizens of more than 180 countries can apply for a 5-year multiple-entry visa. Tourist visas for certain countries will be automatically renewed at Egyptian airports.
Top Areas to Improve for Egypt Hotels Q1-Q2 2023
Here are the top areas Egypt hotels can improve based on our impacts:
In Q2 2023, Room Maintenance, Room Cleanliness, and Old/New Room contributed most to lower scores for Egyptian hotels. Room maintenance issues such as broken fixtures, malfunctioning equipment, or poorly functioning amenities can lead to dissatisfaction among guests. Similarly, inadequate room cleanliness, including dirty or untidy conditions, can significantly impact the overall guest experience and lower scores. Additionally, the state of the rooms needing to be updated, or conversely, newly renovated with poor design or unfinished features, can also contribute to lower scores. These factors collectively reflect the hotel's quality and attention to detail, influencing guests' perceptions and satisfaction levels. Improvements in these subcategories are crucial for Egyptian hotels to enhance their guest experience and improve their overall ratings.
In Q1 2023,
Unlike the other MENA countries, for Egypt we see two subcategories related to F&B services: Meat and Alcoholic Drinks. Foreign guests may leave lower scores looking at the availability and quality of these products. Like the other MENA countries, except Israel, the majority of the Egyptian population is Muslim, with pork being forbidden and alcohol consumption not allowed in public.
Egypt Types of Travelers - Q1 2023
Egypt is a preferred MENA destination for families, with the largest proportion of this category registered in 2022. The couple segment has registered a significant increase when compared to 2022.
#7 Jordan Tourism Statistics
Tourism Reform Continues
In April 2023, the government launched the third phase of reforming the tourism sector. Part of the Kingdom’s National Tourism Strategy 2021-2025, this stage focuses on improving the licensing system by creating a clear and simplified regulatory framework for businesses in the sector.
In 2022, Jordan registered an increase of 110.5% in tourism revenue, corresponding to a recovery in visitor arrivals - 5.05 million, compared to 2.36 million in 2021. The income has slightly surpassed the pre-pandemic levels by 0.4%.
2023 looks even more promising: in the first quarter, the Kingdom’s tourism revenue grew by 88.4% compared to the same period in 2022. The number of overnight visits increased by 90.7% compared to 2022, surpassing the pre-pandemic volume by 5%.
In March 2023, another Jordanian landmark was recognized for its focus on preserving traditions and promoting inclusiveness and accessibility. The village of Umm Qais received the UNWTO’s Best Tourism Villages Award.
Top Areas to Improve for Jordan Hotels Q1 2023
Here are the top areas Jordan hotels can improve based on our impacts:
Overall, the subcategories haven’t changed significantly compared to 2022 and reflect the guests’ needs to have a clean, well-equipped private space.
Jordan Types of Travelers - Q1 2023
Percentage-wise, Jordan, and Egypt are among the most popular destinations among the category friends.
#8 How TrustYou Can Help Destinations Attract More Visitors
For destinations, the competition is getting stronger in the post-pandemic scene. Countries are planning elaborate strategies to help the sector go beyond recovery and make tourism a driver of economic growth.
A true understanding of customer profiles in the post-pandemic world is the key to luring high-yielding tourists to your destination and making connections that enable unforgettable experiences. This is made possible through one thing only: listening to travelers. Listening gets you feedback and data.
With TrustYou’s reputation management platform, you access valuable insights from thousands of hotel reviews - to understand your visitor’s behavior and improve key areas. You can integrate our review widgets onto your DMO website to give travelers the information they need to make a booking decision. Benchmark yourself against competitor destinations to identify your strengths and weaknesses to position yourself properly in the market. Help your DMO’s accommodations build their collection and understanding of guest feedback to increase the number of reviews. Contact us today to find out how to keep your visitors happy every step of the way.
* To determine the top areas to improve, we looked at the top 3 subcategories for our impact scores. The current analysis doesn’t reflect the main categories.
** due to the dynamic nature of the database, the numbers may vary if data was requested at an earlier / later stage.