Tourism in Middle East

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GEOGRAPHICAL FACTS ABOUT THE MIDDLE EAST:
Middle East is one of the smallest regions in the world and has an area of 2,780,000 square miles and a population of 366 million as of the year 2004 (www.ce.byu.edu). The countries of this region lie towards the South-West of Asia and towards the North-Eastern part of Africa. The Middle East consists of: 1.Asian part of Turkey

2.Syria
3.Lebanon
4.Israel
5.Jordan
6.Iraq
7.Iran
8.Saudi Arabia
9.Yemen
10.Oman
11.Qatar
12.Bahrain
13.Kuwait
14.United Arab Emirates
15.Egypt (www.infoplease.com).
There are six main language groups in the Middle East:
1.Persian
2.Arabic
3.Hebrew
4.Assyrian
5.Kurdish
6.Turkish
Middle East is the birthplace and the pioneer for Judaism, Christianity and Islam (www.en.wikipedia.org).

TOURISM AND MIDDLE EAST:
According to the World Tourism Organization in 2002, Middle East had a remarkable 16.7% increase in its overall tourist arrivals as compared to 2001 as it finished with 27.5 million tourists but gained only 3.9% of the overall world market share. The standout performer for the Middle East was Saudi Arabia contributing 27.2% followed by United Arab Emirates with 19.7% and 17.8% contribution by Egypt. The main reasons seen for this increase in the figures are due to the fact that the governments of each country are making investments in developing tourist facilities and also a strong increase in the intra-regional tourism. From this increased number of tourists, Middle East earned a total of US$ 13 billion averaging to US$ 470 per person (www.maldivestourism.gov.mv). As compared to its inbound tourism, Middle East produced only 15 million tourists which had a 2.2% share in the world outbound tourist figures but significantly it was a 10.9% increase compared to its year 2001 figures (www.world-tourism.org). So from this it is inferred that Middle East is more of an inbound region.

TOURISM TRENDS/CHANGES IN MIDDLE EAST:
Francesco Frangialli, secretary general of the World Tourism Organization (WTO) said that ‘despite the political tensions and conflicts that hit the region over the past few years, the number of international arrivals into the Middle East is constantly increasing'. He also stated that intraregional tourism has increased ‘due to travel restrictions in other regions' and also that the travelers prefer to visit destinations close or rather similar to their homes. He also pointed out that tourism is the second GDP (Gross Domestic Product) source to many nations within this region (www.wam.org.ae). www.traveldailynews.com says that in 2004 tourism provided the region with 1.4 million jobs which is aggregately 3.2% for the region. According to WTO, the future of the Middle East tourism is very bright, in the year 2020 there will be 68.5 million tourists arriving into the region compared to its 12.4 million figures in 1995 and will have a market share of 4.4% (http://www.world-tourism.org).

THE KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia occupies the most area of the Arabian Peninsula. The country is bordered by the Red Sea on the west and the Arabian Gulf on the west. Iraq, Jordan, UAE, Oman and Yemen border Saudi Arabia and the country is strategically located and benefits from the Suez Canal near its north-west border (http://www.saudinf.com/main/a1.htm).

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS:

(1) MECCA:
Prophet Mohammed was born in Mecca and this is the prime reason for travelers to come to Saudi Arabia. Mecca is situated near Jeddah and is known as ‘Islam's holiest city' and all the Muslims are expected to visit Mecca at least once in their lives. The Mecca city and the sacred mosque al-Masjid al-Haram strictly prohibit the entry of non-Muslims; officials stand at checkpoints and stop non-Muslims from going too close (http://www.lonelyplanet.com).

(2) MADAIN SALEH:
The Madain Saleh is located 330km north of Medina. The Medina Saleh stands up from the sands in...
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