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October 2013: The Middle East and North Africa are on an inclining curve

Generally, October is a very good period for tourism in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region, both a popular time for leisure as well as business travel. Each year during the period of Eid al-Adha, many people travel in the Arab world for the holiday, which took place on October 15th this year.

In North Africa, RevPAR is increasing almost everywhere, particularly in Tunisia, (+17.8%). Morocco is increasing as well, driven by Marrakech's results (+16.4%) which were due to both an increase in demand (+5.2%) and average daily rates (6.4%). Egypt is still suffering from the social situation and didn't provide a lot of reason for optimism. All the touristic cities are declining (Cairo & Hurghada have declined almost 50%). No doubt this situation has affected overall travel perceptions and is hindering a proper recovery.

In the Levant, Lebanon showed the best RevPAR increase (+16.3%), particularly due to Lebanese expats returning to celebrate Eid al-Adha, and also from an influx of Syrians escaping the situation in their country to find refuge in Lebanon, sometimes in hotels. As seaside tourism is no longer the case in October, Turkey's RevPAR declined (-2.6%) and its capital, Istanbul, declined even more (-6%). These results were due to a 4.1 point drop in occupancy rates although average daily rates increased by 3.5% in the whole of the country.

In the Gulf region, hotel activity in Saudi Arabia decreased as compared to the same period last year (-10,7%), especially in the city of Mecca (-22%), even though the big yearly Hajj pilgrimage took place in October. This year, the country's authorities have effectively decided to temporarily reduce the number of the faithful authorized to make the pilgrimage, by 20% for foreigners and 50§ for Saudis, in order to pursue extension construction on the Mosque of Mecca so that it can welcome even more visitors in the coming years, 88 million people by the year 2020. Despite the decline of activity, Saudi Arabia's RevPAR remains the highest in the region at 200 dollars.

Elsewhere in the Gulf Region, most countries have posted good performances over the month of October. The United Arab Emirates profittexdd from a 11% increase in RevPAR, due to a 10% improvement in average daily rates, and Yemen profited from an almost 25% improvement in RevPAR. Inversely, Qatar and Kuwait posted respective declines of 24.2% and 8% RevPAR.

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