We acknowledge the financial assistance of philanthropist Serge Martin, President of Martin International, through a donation to the UQAM Foundation to support the implementation of this program.
According to the statistics of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the number of international tourism arrivals throughout the world in 2009 amounted to 880 million, a decrease of 42 million, or 4.2% compared to 2008. After four years of sustained growth, a significant decrease was recorded in mid-2008, and confirmed in 2009. However, data recorded in the first four months of 2010 show an increase on 7%. In this context, and despite predictions of unfavourable economic recovery, the MENA region, which consists of mostly Arab countries, has positioned itself as the champion of all categories with an increase of of 32.8% for the Middle East and 4.6% for North Africa (UNWTO, 2010).
Beyond the statistical considerations, research conducted on the Arab world is often approached from economic or political perspectives. Thinking of tourism as an emerging sector, even strategic, in the economic and social structures of countries making up the majority of the Arab world is limited to the analysis of tourism development policies. This situation is explained by the interest of Arab countries to focus their studies on the main tourist source markets, namely Europe, Asia and the Americas. Nevertheless, and since 2008 the Arab Tourism Organization (ATO), a body belonging to the Arab League and more specifically the Arab Tourism Ministers Council, in partnership with tourism ministries of member countries, conducted a series of studies on the competitiveness of the sector at the regional level. However, and given the political nature of the institution and lack of comprehensive studies, research on the region remains generally partial and biased analyses that take into account only the vernacular characteristics of the countries involved in the study process.
At the university level, researchers involved in tourism face a series of constraints, including:
- Access to information: depending on the organizational structures of each country, the data published by the destination management organizations are limited, in most cases, to conventional statistics (arrivals, departures, tourism expenditures)
- The absence of in-depth studies on tourism in the Arab world; and
- The weak financing of research on tourism in general.
It is within this context that CIFORT wishes to conduct, in partnership with the Arabic academic world and the World Centre of Excellence for Destinations (CED), a research program on tourism in the Arab countries whose purpose is to allow the scientific community, tourism industry stakeholders and managers of destinations to have a complete accurate and updated portrait of the tourism sector in Arab countries. Additionally, the program aims to provide knowledge to promote the establishment of sustainable tourism development policies while respecting the specificities of the region.
The program’s objectives are the following:
- Promote scientific research on tourism in the Arab countries thereby responding to a real need for the development of knowledge on that region of the world;
- Emphasize the importance of tourism development in towns and cities of the Arab countries and focus on the prospect of an urban and metropolitan model. Tourism is seen here as an important function of the overall development (social, economic, cultural, political, environmental), a multidimensional vector of change and transformation of the territories: major component of the metropolization process of the territories, a lever of urban regeneration, a stimulator of new urban images and identities that contribute to the creation of destination brands, and an indispensable element of a city’s communication policy; and
- Promote a tourism development approach in the Arab countries that is open to researchers and professionals of the tourism industry. This approach should be built in collaboration with the researchers and professionals from Arab countries. Key words are those of co-construction of knowledge and scientific collaboration among researchers of the Arab countries and those of universities and research centres around the world.
From the perspective of a pragmatic approach to research, the program aims to strengthen the knowledge already acquired by the various national and international actors through the creation of a network of researchers and experts, leading to the implementation of an observatory. This observatory of tourism in the Arab countries is both a monitoring unit of the research program and a space of collaboration between the different members of the network. The objective of the observatory is to provide, through a web platform, regular and rigorous analytical data and monitoring of tourism development in the studied region.
International Meeting of Experts-Researchers
To elaborate the development strategy and implementation of a future observatory, CIFORT, jointly with the Faculty of Letters of Cadi Ayyad University, and in partnership with the World Centre of Excellence for Destinations (CED), organizes an initial meeting of experts that will be held in Marrakesh (Morocco) April 28 and 29, 2011. This meeting will bring together 15 experts from Arab countries. Representatives of international organizations wishing to contribute to the success of this initiative, such as the Arab Tourism Organization, the World Tourism Organization and UNESCO, will be invited to participate in this meeting.
International Centre for Education and Research in Tourism (CIFORT)
Department of Urban Studies and Tourism (DEUT)
School of Management (ESG)
Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)
Montréal (Québec) Canada
Tel : 514-987-3000 (5682)