In its 2023 ranking of the most influential travel and tourism leaders in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Forbes chose to include 100 leaders and entities, rather than the 50 it listed in 2022.
This decision allowed for the inclusion of Middle East Airline’s CEO Mohammad al-Hout, who ranks 59th on the list..
It is a first for the Lebanese businessman, whose term in office was renewed by MEA’s shareholders in January 2022.
They also approved the company's financial statements, owned up to 99 percent by Banque du Liban (BDL), through Bank Intra (Intra Investment Company), from 2011 to 2020.
MEA accumulated $702.7 million in profits during this period, despite the 2020 fiscal year being in the red (-$45.05 million) due to COVID-19.
In the face of Lebanon’s economic crisis — which saw the local currency lose more than 98 percent of its value — MEA started charging its tickets in full in fresh dollars (in cash or money transfer from abroad) in the spring of 2021, following an agreement imposed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Five other Lebanese expats are also part of Forbes’ selection.
Lebanese-American Haitham Mattar, managing director of IHG Hotels & Resorts in India, the Middle East and Africa, is ranked 29th.
Lebanese-American Raki Phillips, CEO of Ras al-Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), came in 30th place.
Lebanese-French Bani Haddad, founder and CEO of Aleph Hospitality, came in 86th place, whleRichard Haddad, the Lebanese CEO of Ishraq Hospitality, and Kamal Fakhoury, the Lebanese-Canadian CEO of Cristal Group, are ranked 92nd 93rd, respectively.
According to Forbes’ list, the tourism sector “has been a major contributor to the region’s economic growth and development, with the region emerging globally as a world-class destination.”
Of the 33 nationalities in the ranking, 16 leaders are from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), 12 from Saudi Arabia and 10 from the UK. In terms of sectors, 59 of these leaders work in the hotel industry and 31 in air transport.
To compile its ranking, Forbes highlighted the regional investment in the field of sports tourism with, among others, the organization of the Formula One Grand Prix in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE; the Football World Cup hosted in Doha, Qatar, last autumn and the basketball World Cup planned in 2027 “for the first time in the Middle East.”
The magazine also relied on the latest report from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), which notes that the Middle East recovered “83 percent of its pre-pandemic visitor numbers,” in 2020 and 2021.
The World Travel and Tourism Council expects this market to become “the fastest-growing” in the region in Saudi Arabia, “forecasting it to grow at an average of 11 percent” over the next decade, amid the country’s open-door policy as part of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s strategy to prepare for the post-oil era.
According to the same UNWTO report, the tourism sector’s contribution to the Middle East’s GDP increased by 46.9 percent in 2022 compared to 2021, for a total of $107 billion. The region’s airlines recorded an increase of 157.4 percent in 2022 compared to the 2021 fiscal year, with capacity going up by 73.8 percent according to the IATA.
This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour. Translation by Joelle El Khoury.
In its 2023 ranking of the most influential travel and tourism leaders in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Forbes chose to include 100 leaders and entities, rather than the 50 it listed in 2022.This decision allowed for the inclusion of Middle East Airline’s CEO Mohammad al-Hout, who ranks 59th on the list..It is a first for the Lebanese businessman, whose term in office was renewed by...