South America leads the way with 15 percent growth; only the Middle East and North Africa showed declines, reflecting social and political turmoil in the region
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Despite ups and downs in the overall economy, global tourism continued to show strong growth in the first half of 2011, growing by almost 5 percent to a total of 440 million arrivals, 19 million more than during the same period in 2010.
After several periods when countries with emerging economies showed the strongest growth in tourism, countries with advanced economies caught up. The World Tourism Organization reported that developed countries showed 4.3 percent growth in tourism.
Growth in countries with emerging economies slowed a bit, reflecting decreases in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as a slight slowdown in the growth of some Asian destinations following a very strong 2010.
“The sustained growth registered in tourism demand in such challenging times clearly makes the case for the sector and reinforces our call to consider tourism as a priority in national policies,” said United Nations World Tourism Organization Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “Tourism can play a key role in terms of economic growth and development, particularly at a moment when many economies, for the most part in Europe and North America, struggle for recovery and job creation,” he added.
Outside the Middle East (down 11 percent) and North Africa (down 13 percent), all regions showed positive trends, with better-than-expected results in Europe (up 6 percent), northern Europe (up 7 percent) and eastern Europe (up 9 percent). Sub-Sahara Africa also stayed strong, showing 9 percent growth.
The Americas as a whole showed solid growth at 6 percent, slightly above the world average, and with remarkably strong results for South America (up 15 percent). Asia and the Pacific grew at a comparatively slower pace of 5 percent, but this more than consolidates the region’s stellar 13 percent growth of 2010.
Results from recent months show that destinations such as Egypt, Tunisia or Japan are seeing declines in demand clearly reverting.
“We are very encouraged to see demand picking up in such important tourism destinations and call for continued support to these countries which are today fully ready to receive travellers from all over the world,” added Mr. Rifai.
So far, the growth of international tourism arrivals is very much in line with the initial forecast of 4 to 5 percent growth issued by UNWTO at the beginning of 2011.
As international tourism receipts were more affected by the 2008-2009 crisis and recovered somewhat slower than arrivals in 2010, this year should also see their further improvement.
Following an encouraging first half of 2011, growth in the remainder of the year is expected to soften somewhat as recent months have brought increased uncertainty, hampering business and consumer confidence.
“We must remain cautious as the global economy is showing signs of increased volatility,” Rifai said. “Many advanced economies still face risks posed by weak growth, fiscal problems and persistently high unemployment. Simultaneously, signs of overheating have become apparent in some emerging economies. Restoring sustained and balanced economic growth remains a major task”.
Following the decline registered in 2009, one of the most challenging years for international tourism in decades, the sector rebounded strongly in 2010. International tourist arrivals were up 6.6 percent to 940 million and international tourism receipts grew by 4.7 percent in real terms to reach $ 919 billion.