Governments urged to facilitate travel as an economic driver
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Global tourism grew by 4.4 percent in 2011 as measured by the number of international arrivals, according to the results of the latest World Tourism Organization tourism barometer released Jan. 16.
Arrivals for the year totaled 980 million, up from 939 million in 2010, and with growth expected to continue in 2012, that number is expected to hit 1 billion for the first time ever in 2012.
“International tourism hit new records in 2011 despite the challenging conditions,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “For a sector directly responsible for 5 percent of the world’s GDP, 6 percent of total exports and employing one out of every 12 people in advanced and emerging economies alike these results are encouraging, coming as they do at a time in which we urgently need levers to stimulate growth and job creation,” he added.
Rifai also encouraged governments to facilitate travel by making the most of information and communication technologies to improve visa application and processing formalities, as well as the timings of visa issuance, and to analyze the possible impact of travel facilitation in increasing their tourism economies. Read this Summit Voice story for more details.
“Travel facilitation is closely interlinked with tourism development and can be key in boosting demand. This area is of particular relevance in a moment in which governments are looking to stimulate economic growth but cannot make major use of fiscal incentives or public investment,” Rifai said.
By region, Europe (plus 6 percent) was the best performer, while by subregion South-America (plus 10 percent) topped the ranking. Contrary to previous years, growth was higher in advanced economies due largely to the strong results in Europe, and the setbacks in the Middle East and North Africa.
Despite persistent economic uncertainty, tourist arrivals to Europe reached 503 million in 2011, accounting for 28 million of the 41 million additional international arrivals recorded worldwide. Central and Eastern Europe and Southern Mediterranean destinations ( plus 8 percent each) experienced the best results. Although part of the growth in Southern Mediterranean Europe resulted from a shift in traffic away from the Middle East and North Africa, destinations in the Mediterranean also profited from improved outbound flows from markets such as Scandinavia, Germany and the Russian Federation.
Asia and the Pacific ( plus 6 percent) was up 11 million arrivals in 2011, reaching a total 216 million international tourists. South Asia and South-East Asia (both plus 9 percent) benefited from strong intraregional demand, while growth was comparatively weaker in North-East Asia ( plus 4 percent) and Oceania (plus 0.3 percent), partly due to the temporary decline in the Japanese outbound market.
The Americas (plus 4 percent) saw an increase of 6 million arrivals, reaching 156 million in total. South America, up by 10 percent for the second consecutive year, continued to lead growth. Central America and the Caribbean (both plus 4 percent) maintained growth rates of 2010. North America, with a 3 percent increase, hit the 100 million tourists mark in 2011.
Africa maintained international arrivals at 50 million, as the gain of two million by Sub-Saharan destinations ( plus 7 percent) was offset by the losses in North Africa ( minus 12 percent). The Middle East ( minus 8 percent) lost an estimated 5 million international tourist arrivals, totalling 55 million. Nevertheless, some destinations such as Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates sustained steady growth.
Available data on international tourism receipts and expenditure for 2011 closely follows the positive trend in arrivals.
Among the top ten tourist destinations, receipts were up significantly:
- USA – 12 percent
- Spain – 9 percent
- Hong Kong (China) – 25 percent
- UK – plus 7 percent
The top spenders were led by emerging source markets:
- China – 38 percent
- Russia – 21 percent
- Brazil – 32 percent
- India – 32 percent
The World Tourism Organization forecasts continued growth at about 3 percent to 4 percent, reaching the historic one billion mark by the end of the year. Emerging economies will regain the lead with stronger growth in Asia and the Pacific and Africa (4 percent to 6 percent), followed by the Americas and Europe (2 percent to 4 percent).
The Middle East (0 to 5 percent) is forecast to start to recover part of its losses from 2011.