Travel rebound provides some relief for economic woes, with record numbers reported in July
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Continued economic uncertainty in parts of Europe didn’t hamper the tourism industry, which continues to outperform many other economic sectors. International tourist arrivals to the continent grew by a healthy 6 percent during the first eight months of 2011, according to the latest data from the World Tourism Organization.
Some of the strongest growth came in countries facing major economic challenges, including Greece (up 14 percent), Ireland ( up 13 percent), Portugal ( up 11 percent) and Spain (up 8 percent).
The Northern Hemisphere summer peak season months of July and August showed encouraging results with growth at close to 4 percent over 2010, equal to about 8 million more arrivals. July saw the highest number of international tourist arrivals ever recorded in one month, at 11.8 million.
Some recent tourism trends were upended during the first part of 2011, with more growth inadvanced economies ( up 4.9 percent) than in emerging countries ( up 4.0 percent). Europe led all regions, with central and eastern Europe showing a particularly vigorous comeback from the malaise of 2008.
Southern Europe may have benefited from a shift of travel away from the Middle East (down by 9 percent, and North Africa (down 15 percent).
“Despite current volatility, international tourism is proving to be an important economic driver for many European economies, bringing much needed foreign exchange and helping to ease the pressure on their balance of payments,” UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said in a press release. “UNWTO encourages European governments to support tourism and consider the sector as one that can back economic recovery given its capacity to distribute wealth and create jobs across the region,” he added.
Parts of Asia and South America showed double-digit growth.
In spite of the current situation in the Middle East, some destinations such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates continue to grow steadily. Results of recent months (July and August) also show an improvement in arrivals to Egypt.
Emerging economies once again led the way in tourism spending growth, with China leading the way at 30 percent. Russian tourism spending was up 21 percent, Brazil, up 44 percent, and India, up 33 percent.
The WTO expects growth to soften in the remainder of 2011, with international tourist arrivals projected to end the year up between 4 percent and 4.5 percent. During 2012, growth is expected to slow to pace of about 3 to 4 percent.
“A stalled economic recovery and increased financial and fiscal challenges have brought growing uncertainty to the tourism market. Nevertheless, the trends of recent months make us confident that though at a slower pace, international tourism will continue to grow in 2012, creating much needed exports and jobs in many economies around the world,” said Rifai.