International Tourism in the OIC Countries: Prospects and Challenges 2020
Date: 17 December 2020

SESRIC prepared this report as the main technical background document for the 11th Session of the Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers (ICTM) to be held in Gabala, Azerbaijan. The ICTM convenes once every two years to review the recent developments and discuss major issues in the domain of tourism in OIC member countries.

This report provides a comprehensive assessment of the tourism performance of the OIC countries by looking into the latest available data on major tourism indicators along with the existing policy and regulatory frameworks. The report also discusses the niche markets of Islamic and health tourism along with the impacts of COVID-19 on international tourism in OIC Member Countries.

The major findings of the report reveal that OIC member countries have increased their tourism earnings from USD 157.1 billion in 2013 to USD 181.9 billion in 2018. Consequently, the total contribution of international tourism to GDP in the OIC group, on average, climbed up from 8.1% in 2013 to 8.8% in 2018. Moreover, the report provides a detailed analysis on the state of the intra-OIC tourism activities that is an important indicator to assess the level of cooperation among the OIC member countries in the domain of tourism. The findings show that there is some improvement in intra-OIC tourism cooperation as the share of intra-OIC tourist arrivals in total OIC tourist arrivals went up from 34.4% in 2013 to 37.6% in 2018.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, OIC countries are projected to host 31 - 45 million fewer international tourists in 2020. This translates into a potential loss of USD 39 - 58 billion in tourism receipts. The limited diversification of exports and heavy reliance on tourism activities also underpin high risk and vulnerability in some OIC countries like Gambia and Maldives. Such OIC countries could be affected to a higher extent due to a significant reduction in their foreign exchange earnings and substantial job losses in tourism and other related sectors.

The report underlines that Islamic tourism is a natural fit for the OIC countries due to the existing Halal ecosystems and Muslim friendly facilities and services. The current size of the global Islamic tourism market is estimated at around USD 175 billion in 2018 and the top-10 Islamic tourist destinations in the world are members of the OIC except for Singapore. Nevertheless, the OIC countries still need more proactive policies and measures in order to capitalize on their existing comparative advantage.

As a special theme, this report investigates the issue of promoting health tourism in the OIC member countries. Thanks to their competitive prices, well-developed healthcare facilities and skilled workforce, a number of OIC countries emerged as important players in the international health tourism map. As the worth of the global health tourism market reached around USD 100 billion, an increasing number of OIC member countries started to invest in this market and make regulatory arrangements to gain a higher share from it. In this regard, the report reviews the experiences of Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to highlight their success in promotion of health tourism.

Lastly, the report sheds light on some major issues and challenges faced by the OIC member countries in their pursuit to develop sustainable tourism sector and enhance intra-OIC tourism cooperation and proposes policy actions to overcome these impediments in the final section.

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