Political unrest cost the Middle East 5 million and North Africa 2 million tourists in 2011, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
During a meeting on tourism held on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Markets show in Dubai, organization Secretary General Taleb al-Refai said tourism in some countries, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, benefited from Arab Spring protests due to their stability.
Despite the trials of the past year, many tourism agencies at the show were optimistic about the future of travel in the region.
David Roche, president of Hotels.com, an online hotel booking site, said his corporation was badly affected by political incidents last year, especially in Egypt.
Roche said all tourist industry workers were affected by the unrest, which is ongoing in many of the countries, and that Egypt had suffered from the difficult period. Although Cairo has not yet caught up to its previous rates, hotel occupancy in Sharm el-Sheikh is around 85 percent, Roche estimated.
Roche expects tourism advertising and promotion in the region to grow over the next few years. He said his corporation will expand its work in Arab countries and launch an Arabic version of the Hotels.com website.
Tourism Minister Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour expects tourist numbers to be higher in 2012 than the previous year.
“Tourists are reluctant about going to Cairo, but are less reluctant to go to Luxor and Aswan,” Abdel Nour said, attributing this to continued insecurity.
Abdel Nour stressed the importance of tourism to the local economy, saying it employs about 4 million people, made up 11.3 percent of the gross domestic product last year and is the country's second largest source of foreign currency.
Edited translation from MENA