Upward Trend for International Tourism

International tourism is steadily gaining momentum following an extremely challenging 2009, according to the UN World Tourism Organization (UNTWO). International tourist arrivals grew by 7 percent in the first two months of 2010 worldwide. Growth was particularly strong in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. UNWTO forecasts international tourist arrivals to grow by 3 percent to 4 percent in 2010.

Emerging destinations lead recovery

The upturn registered in the first two months of 2010 follows the last quarter of 2009 when arrivals grew by 2 percent after 14 consecutive months of negative results. Though data for March is still limited, countries with data already reported confirm that this positive trend is set to continue.

Growth was positive in all world regions during the first two months of 2010 led by Asia and the Pacific (+10 percent) and Africa (+7 percent). Information for the three countries of the Middle East that have reported results so far also point to a strong rebound in the region, though, compared to very subdued first months of 2009. The pace of growth was slower in Europe (+3 percent) and in the Americas (+3 percent), the two regions hardest hit by the global crisis and where economic recovery is proving to be comparatively weaker.  

A large number of countries around the world reported positive results in the first months of 2010. Of the 77 destinations reporting data for this period, 60 showed positive figures, of which 24 posted double-digit growth including Estonia, Israel, Hong Kong (China), Macao (China), Japan, Taiwan (pr. of China), Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Guam, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, US Virgin Islands, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Kenya, Seychelles, Morocco, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, according to the UNWTO.

Though there is a clear improvement on the negative results of 2009, this growth must be considered with caution,t he UNTWO said, underlining that it compares with a particularly weak period of 2009 − the worst months of the global economic crisis. On the whole, international tourist arrivals totaled 119 million during the first two months of 2010, up 7 percent on 2009 but still 2 percent below the value of the record year of 2008.

2010 forecast not affected by recent air traffic disruption

UNTWO’s  outlook for 2010 has not been altered by the recent air traffic disruption in European airspace. Although impacting very seriously on travelers, specific destinations and companies, in particular airlines, airports and tour operators, the organization estimates that the closure of a major part of European airspace between 15 and 20 April might have caused a loss of less than half a per cent of the yearly volume of international tourist arrivals in Europe and 0.3 percent of the total count for the world.

Nevertheless, while the positive trend registered in the first months of 2010 reflects improved economic conditions, UNWTO warns that many challenges remain.

“Although economic results have improved significantly in recent months with a positive impact on tourism demand we must remain cautious as many factors can still jeopardize the pace of recovery”, said

UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai in Sofia, Bulgaria, at the opening of this week’s UNWTO Seminar on Tourism Governance In Times Of Crisis: Conjunctural and Structural Policies. “The economic recovery is being driven mainly by emerging economies while growth is still sluggish in most advanced ones. At the same time, increasing unemployment levels in major tourism source markets is a cause of concern”, he added.

2009 – International tourism receipts down by 6 percent to US$ 852 billion

In 2009, international tourism receipts are estimated to have reached US$ 852 billion worldwide (€ 611 billion), down from US$ 942 billion (€ 641 billion) in the previous year. In real terms (adjusted for exchange rate fluctuations and inflation) international tourism receipts decreased by 6 percent as compared to a 4 percent decline in arrivals, showing the close relation between both indicators. Experience suggests that in times of crisis revenues tend to be more affected than arrivals as was the case for the year 2009.

The top 10 ranking by international tourism spenders shows one noticeable change in 2009 with China overtaking France to take fourth position in the ranking of international tourism spenders. Chinese expenditure on international tourism has been the fastest to grow in the last decade, up from seventh position only in 2005. Even during last year’s crisis, tourism expenditure by China increased by 21 percent.

There were no major changes in the rankings of the first ten destinations by international tourist arrivals and receipts in 2009. According to UNWTWO, France, the U.S. and Spain continue to be leaders in both arrivals and receipts, albeit in a different order. France continues to lead the ranking of the world’s major tourism destinations in terms of arrivals and ranks third in receipts. The U.S. ranks first in receipts and second in arrivals. Spain maintains its position as the second biggest earner worldwide and the first in Europe, and ranks third in arrivals. In 2009, both Turkey and Germany climbed one position in the ranking of arrivals to seventh and eighth places, respectively. In arrivals, Malaysia entered the top ten in 2009 at ninth place.

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