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Tourist Industry in Middle East Takes a Hit as War Hampers Travel Plans

The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas has caused a significant slowdown in international tourism to Israel and neighboring countries in the Middle East. This has not only affected the economies of Egypt, Jordan, and other nations heavily reliant on tourism but has also disrupted what was shaping up to be a prosperous year for travel in the region.

Various sectors of the travel industry, including international travel operators, cruise lines, and airlines, have been impacted by the war. Concerns about safety and government advisories have led many travelers to cancel their plans to visit the region.

Credit: Depositphotos

Local tour operators are worried about the consequences of a prolonged war on the promising and growing tourism industry. Khaled Ibrahim, a consultant for Amisol Travel Egypt, expressed hopes that the conflict does not escalate and destroy the potential that the Middle East has in becoming a popular tourist destination.

However, Amisol Travel has only received 40 to 50 percent of its typical bookings for the first half of 2024. Hussein Abdallah, the general manager of Lebanon Tours and Travels, noted the sudden decline in bookings since the war started, negatively impacting tourist sites like the Jeita Grotto and the Baalbek Temples in Lebanon.

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The conflict’s effects have spread beyond Israel and Lebanon, as flight bookings to the entire Middle East dropped by 26 percent compared to the same period in 2019. Inbound tickets to Israel saw a decrease of over 100 percent compared to 2019, with cancellations surpassing new bookings.

Additionally, the war has also affected consumer confidence in travel to other regions, resulting in a 5 percent decline in flight bookings globally. This setback comes at a time when tourism in the Middle East had been thriving, with visitor arrivals surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

Countries around the conflict zone, such as Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan, are particularly vulnerable due to their proximity and dependence on tourism. These countries’ economies rely on tourism, contributing from 12 to 26 percent of their total foreign earnings.

Credit: DepositPhotos

A report by S & P Global Ratings highlights the concerns about security risks and social unrest, which could worsen if the humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsens or the situation escalates in the West Bank. Despite tourism accounting for only 3 percent of Israel’s total earnings from abroad, it has brought in $5 billion and provided indirect employment for about 200,000 people.

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Cruise lines and tour operators have been forced to cancel trips or revise itineraries that included Israel, impacting their operations for the rest of the year. Intrepid Travel, for example, has shelved 47 departures to Israel and seen a significant increase in cancellations for trips to Egypt and Jordan.

Many major cruise lines, including Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and MSC Cruises, have canceled port calls in Israel and redirected their ships to other regions. Travelers who had booked cruises in countries bordering Israel have faced challenges in canceling or postponing their trips and obtaining refunds.

The uncertainty caused by the war has led some travelers to consider shelving their travel plans to the region. Concerns about safety and the possibility of being targeted for anti-American sentiment have made some hesitant to visit.

Despite their eagerness to explore the Middle East, travelers like Kristin Davis and her husband, who had planned a trip to Egypt and Jordan, are now considering postponing their visit. The couple’s travel agency has tried to reassure them that it is safe, but their anxieties have made them rethink their plans.

Overall, the conflict has dealt a severe blow to the tourist industry in the Middle East, disrupting a promising year for travel and impacting countries heavily dependent on tourism. The repercussions of the war extend beyond Israel and Lebanon, affecting global travel patterns.

The future of the region’s tourism industry relies on the resolution of the conflict and the restoration of safety and stability.

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Malik is a skilled writer with a passion for news and current events. With their keen eye for detail, they provide insightful perspectives on the latest happenings. Stay informed and engaged!