Monday, January 18, 2010
Despite delicate economic growth in major source markets such as Europe and the U.S., growth returned to international tourism in the last quarter of 2009, contributing to better than expected full-year results, according to the latest edition of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.
Prospects have also improved with arrivals now forecast to grow between 3 percent and 4 percent in 2010. This outlook is confirmed by the remarkable rise of the UNWTO Panel of Experts' Confidence Index, the United Nations group said. Pent-up demand and gains in consumer confidence are cited as reasons for optimism.
The last quarter of 2009 saw growth. International tourist arrivals for business, leisure and other purposes are estimated to have declined worldwide by 4 percent in 2009 to 880 million. This represents a slight improvement on the previous estimate as a result of the 2 percent upswing in the last quarter of 2009. In contrast, international tourist arrivals shrank by 10 percent, 7 percent and 2 percent in the first three quarters, in that order. Asia and the Pacific and the Middle East led the recovery with growth already turning positive in both regions in the second half of 2009, the UNWTO said.
"The global economic crisis aggravated by the uncertainty around the H1N1 deadly disease turned 2009 into one of the toughest years for the tourism sector," said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai. "However, the results of recent months suggest that recovery is underway, and even somewhat earlier and at a stronger pace than initially expected."
Experience shows that tourism earnings generally follow the trend in arrivals quite closely, even if they suffer somewhat more in difficult times, the UNWTO said. Based on the trends through the first three quarters, receipts for 2009 are estimated to have decreased by around 6 percent. "While this is unquestionably a disappointing result for an industry accustomed to continuous growth, it can also be interpreted as a sign of comparative resilience given the extremely difficult economic environment," Rifai said. "This becomes even more evident when compared with the estimated 12 percent slump in overall exports as a consequence of the global crisis.
Consumers tended to travel closer to home during 2009. Several destinations have seen domestic tourism endure the crisis better and even grow significantly, often with the support of specific government measures aimed at leveraging this trend. This was the case among many other countries, of China, Brazil and Spain, where the domestic market, representing a large share of the total demand, contributed to partially offsetting the decline in international tourism.