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Colorado: Another record year for tourism?

International numbers strong through August: Colorado benefits from growth in international travel

Tourists and locals enjoy a concert at the Viktualienmarkt in Munich, Germany.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Global tourism grew by a healthy 4 percent between January and August 2012 compared to the same period the previous year, according to the latest figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organization, which estimated about 705 million international arrivals during that span.

Based on those numbers, the global tourism market is still on pace to surpass 1 billion arrivals for the first time ever, and Colorado appears to have benefited from the industry’s strength.

“International numbers were up throughout the state … some reports indicate international visits were up as much as 30 percent,” said Al White, director of the Colorado Tourism Office. “This was due to a variety of reasons; a weak dollar versus most international currencies, as well as an increased effort on the part of the Administration to reduce obstacles to entry.  Visa interview wait times were decreased dramatically in Brazil, China, and Russia,” White said.
“We don’t have summer numbers yet, but anecdotally, I believe we will see another record year for travel in Colorado,” White said. “Both 2010, and 2011 were records, and I believe we will surpass them with record increases in visitors to the state, as well as overall travel spending in the state.”
Travel and tourism continued to outpace most other economic sectors.
“This growth is a very positive result in view of the global economic situation. We must remain cautious, however, as we have also observed some weaker months during the year, a trend that might return in the remainder of the year,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai, adding that there were some ups and downs during the year.

Growth slowed in June and Jul as compared to the first five months of the year, then recovered in August in a month month that accounts for the highest volume of international tourism during the year.

The strongest growth came from countries with emerging economies in Asia and the Pacific and Africa, followed by the Americas and Europe. The Middle East continues to show signs of recovery, with particularly promising results in Egypt.

Specifically, Europe consolidated its record growth of 2011 despite on-going economic volatility in the Eurozone. Results were above average in Central and Eastern Europe, with 9 percent growth, but slightly weaker in Southern and Mediterranean Europe.

The Americas saw tourism growth of about 4 percent, in line with the global average, with the strongest performance in Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean.

In Africa, tourism rebounded in Tunisia and Egypt, and strong growth also continued in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Tourism revenue also grew along with the absolute visitor numbers, showing significant strength in in Hong Kong (up 17 percent), the USA (up 8 percent), Germany (up 7 percent and France (up 5 percent). A number of other major destinations reported double-digit growth in receipts, such as Japan (up 48 percent), Sweden (up 26 percent) and South Africa.

China continues to be a major exporter of tourism revenue, with expenditures by Chinese tourists abroad growing by 20 percent. Similarly, Russia showed an increase of 15 percent, while expenditures by tourists from the USA, Germany, Australia and Japan showed increases in the upper single digits.

For more information on the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, including the latest international tourism figures by region, see: http://mkt.unwto.org/en/barometer

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