Asian countries making a strong recovery, Europe and Americas lagging
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Global World Tourism Organization reported earlier this month, with the strongest growth in Asia, the Pacific region (up 14 percent) and the Middle East (up 20 percent). The tourism rebound was more modest in Europe (2 percent) and in the Americas (7 percent), the regions hit hardest by the recession, and where economic recovery is weaker.was up 7 percent in the first six months of 2010, the
If the numbers hold for the rest of the year, it would a strong recovery from 2009, when global tourism declined by 4 percent, and tourism revenues declined by 6 percent. Tourism in Europe was down 6 percent in 2009, and down 5 percent in the Americas.
Many countries reported double-digit tourism growth in the early months of 2010, 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.
Some Asian countries rebounded especially strongly, including Sri Lanka (up 49 percent), Japan (up 36 percent) and Vietnam (up 35 percent). The region as a whole has shown a great capacity for rebounding from previous crises, including the Asian financial and economic crisis in 1997–1998, the 2003 SARS outbreak and the 2004 tsunami. Visit the WTO’s roadmap for tourism recovery page here.
Asia the second most-visited region in the world, with 181 million international tourist arrivals (21 percent of world total) and international tourism receipts of $ 204 billion (24 percent of world total) in 2009.
Officials with the World Tourism Organization were cautiously optimistic about the outlook for the rest of the year, but cautioned that the rebound compares with a particularly week period in in 2009, during the worst months of the global economic crisis. Overall, 119 million international tourist arrivals were tallied during the first two months of 2010, 7 percent more than 2009 but still 2 percent below the record-setting pace of 2008. They also warned against hiking taxes that could impact the travel and tourism industry.
“Although we are witnessing a clear recovery in international tourism, we must remain cautious,” said Taleb Rifai in Madrid, secretary-general for the World Travel Organization. “In many advanced economies, namely in the USA and in some major European markets, economic recovery has still to consolidate. To this we must add the recent introduction and increase in taxation, most specifically those which directly impact the tourism sector, such as air transport taxes,“ Rifai said. “While we fully understand the need to balance public accounts, one-sided decisions on taxation risk adversely impacting a sector with a proven track record for job creation and economic growth, as one of the major generators of exports earnings and income sources for developing countries, which are crucial to a stable economic recovery.”
In a trend reflected both locally and nationally, revenue from international tourism is expected to lag somewhat behind arrivals in many destinations. Following major shocks, volume tends to recover faster than revenue, as travelers stay closer to home, travel for shorter periods of time and seek value for money. On the supply side, increased competition has been driving prices down. This was also the case following the Asian economic and financial crisis and after the 2001 September 11 terrorist attacks, according to the WTO.
Along those lines, the WTO emphasized the importance of regional and domestic tourism. A large majority of international travel takes place within the traveller’s own region, with around four out of five arrivals worldwide originating from the same region. The remarkable rebound of Asia is to a large extent a reflection of the strength of the regional outbound markets. Domestic tourism is of equal importance. Worldwide the number of domestic arrivals is estimated to exceed some four times the number of international arrivals.
“With consumers tending to travel closer to home in times of downturns, domestic tourism has been experiencing significant growth,” said WTO executive director Márcio Favilla. “Coupled with regional tourism, domestic tourism can thus serve as an important driver of development and growth, in particular during times of economic uncertainty. China is an excellent example of how to foster domestic tourism,” he concluded.
Detailed WTO reports on tourism in specific regions are online here.