The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is causing major blows to markets and economies everywhere. Some of the countries that will be hard hit by the economic effects of the contagion include several Arab nations that rely on tourism to keep their financial systems going.
With canceled flights and millions of vacation plans put on hold, the industry is one of the most affected by the pandemic.
Here's a look at how a few Arab economies that are heavily dependent on tourism are doing so far:
In the past few months, Egypt's tourism sector was slowly recovering from years of drops caused by terrorist attacks and political turmoil. The last thing the local industry needed was the blow it received from COVID-19.
The country has already seen a drop in the number of tourist arrivals in the past few weeks. This is because "many flights that would have carried visitors to Egypt have been cancelled amid efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus," according to Channel News Asia.
Egypt's ailing economy needed all the input it could get from tourism, but as the contagion continues to rise in the country and abroad, officials have to figure out other options.
Tourism is a major source of revenue for Tunisia and the sector employs hundreds of thousands of locals who are now worried over losing their jobs.
The industry "accounted for some 14% of the country's GDP and employed almost half a million people from a population of 11 million back in 2014."
Tunisia's tourism sector survived several terrorist attacks targeting tourists but was left struggling. Now, it faces even more troubles amid COVID-19, which is set to majorly affect hotel and resort bookings.
Lebanon, already in a state of economic collapse, had a head start in October 2019. The tourism industry in the country was struggling way before COVID-19 infiltrated its borders. Political unrest and instability, months of revolutions, and an unstable currency put the country down the path of a crisis.
According to a study released by Standard & Poor's rating agency, Lebanon's GDP growth rate would decrease 1.6 percentage points if an 11-percent decline in global tourism receipts due to the spread of coronavirus takes place. If things get worse and a 19-percent drop in tourism revenues is recorded, "it would decrease the country's economic growth rate by 2.76 percentage points this year."
Even if these drops moderately affect the country's already collapsed economy, they will have devastating effects on unemployment rates. This is because numerous hotels, restaurants, and attractions are at risk and could close down in a matter of weeks as the crisis continues.
Morocco's historic monuments, cities, and landmarks have long attracted tourists and celebrities to the country. The nation is highly dependent on tourism, especially when it comes to employment.
So far, COVID-19 has already "battered the industry and it will be some time before Western and Gulf tourists come back."
Populations in cities like Marrakech and Fez entirely depend on tourism for their income and so they'll also be affected by the ongoing crisis.
Jordan's bustling tourism scene has come to a complete halt due to COVID-19. The country has stopped tourist arrivals for the time being in a bit to curb the spread of the disease locally. It has also taken measures including closing restaurants and enforcing a lockdown on citizens.
Given that the kingdom largely depends on tourism as a source of income and employment, it will soon be reeling of the illness' effects on the sector.
Budding tourism industries in Saudi Arabia and the UAE will also be affected
Saudi Arabia has been focused on recreating its tourism scene in the past few years. This comes as part of Vision 2030, an ambitious blueprint that aims at diversifying the kingdom's economy.
However, with COVID-19 cases increasing fast on a global and regional level, the country has been forced to stop all its plans for the industry this year.
Entertainment events that would've attracted thousands of tourists to the kingdom have been canceled and all arrivals into the country have been halted until further notice.
The ongoings are set to impact the revenues that officials aimed to generate from the sector this year. The same goes for the UAE, where several hotels have stopped taking bookings amid a drastic drop in demand due to the novel coronavirus. Dubai has become a touristic hotspot in the past few years but has seen things slow down as the pandemic wages on.
Though the UAE and Saudi Arabia do generate income from tourism, the oil-rich nations have yet to rely on the field as a sole or major source of income.