DUBAI (Reuters) - Tourism in Arab countries is expected to rise between 2 to 6 percent this year as frugal residents, wary of the new H1N1 flu, opt to travel within the region, the World Tourism Organization said on Tuesday.
Arab travelers are expected to spend less due to the financial crisis, but they will be encouraged to travel within the region due to the limited spread of swine flu in the Arab world, the organization said in a report.
The Middle East saw the highest tourism growth rate in the world in 2008 with an 11 percent increase, compared to 2 percent in the rest of the world, it added.
The number of tourists visiting Jordan is not expected to decline this year, with more than half of the total 4.8 million Arab tourists planning to spend their holidays there in 2009, while an estimated 2 million tourists, mostly Arabs, are expected to visit Lebanon, the report said.
The tourism sector could provide 10.5 million jobs -- 10 percent of the total workforce -- in the Middle East and North Africa region in 2009, according to the International Travel and Tourism Council.
Figures cited by the report showed that Arab Gulf countries are estimated to spend $20 billion on vacations every year, led by Saudi tourists with $8.5 billion. Kuwaiti and UAE tourists spend $5 billion each, followed by Qatari, Omani and Bahraini tourists.