2012 starts strong; international tourism arrivals up 5.7 percent over 2011
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Global tourism growth continued to outpace most other economic sectors during the first two months of 2012, with international tourist arrivals up 5.7 percent over the same period in 2011, according to the World Tourism Organization’s World Tourism Barometer.
The WTO also said that international annual tourism revenues passed the $1 trillion mark for the first time in 2011. Overall, 2011 global tourism receipts grew by 3.8 percent from the previous year, along with a 4.6 percent increase in tourism arrivals worldwide.
Tourism revenues continued to recover from the losses suffered in 2009 and hit new records in many destinations, reaching a total of $1.03 trillion. The biggest growth was in the Americans, at 5.7 percent, followed by Europe (5.2 percent), Asia and the Pacific (4.3 percent) and Africa (2.2 percent).
Jarred by political and social turmoil, the Middle East saw tourism revenue drop by 14 percent.
Europe continues to take the lion’s share of total global tourism revenues, at 45 percent, followed by the Asia-Pacific region (28 percent) and the Americas (19 percent).
Brazil, Russia, India, China continue to stand out for rapidly growing tourism expenditures. Those countries are also key targets for the U.S tourism industry, which is trying to make it easier for travelers from those countries to visit the U.S.
China’s spending on international tourism grew by $18 billion to a total of $73 billion; the Russian Federation increased by $6 billion to US$ 32 billion, Brazil by $5 billion to US$ 21 billion and India by $3 billion to $14 billion.
Despite challenging economic conditions, arrivals in Europe grew overall by 5 percent, with the biggest increases in eastern (8 percent) and western, northern and central Europe (6 percent).
Demand held up surprisingly well in the comparatively mature advanced economy destinations of Northern, Western and parts of Southern and Central Europe, despite continued concerns about the economy.
“These are welcome results for Europe (when) countries are looking for sectors that can deliver on economic growth and job creation,” UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, said in a prepared statement.
“We need to work together with tourism administrations to ensure that governments give priority to tourism as part of national policies to stimulate growth and employment,” Rifai said, adding that the latest high-level tourism meetings focused on visa facilitation, tourism promotion and branding.
Tourism has been important in growing the economies of emerging economy destinations in Eastern Europe, Rifai said, highlighting recent efforts in Georgia that have seen tourism arrivals triple in the past five years.
“Eastern European destinations have strong tourism potential provided they shape the adequate conditions. Georgia … is a remarkable example of a destination with a strong commitment towards tourism development,” Rifai said. “As a result, arrivals have … (grown) from just below a million in 2006 to close to 3 million in 2011, with international tourism receipts reaching almost US$ 1 billion in 2011.”
There was growth in all regions of the world with the exception of the Middle East, where arrivals dropped by 1 percent overall. But tourism made a huge comeback in Egypt, bouncing by 32 percent in the first quarter of 2012, as well as South-East Asia and South Asia, which both saw arrivals jump by 10 percent.
Africa and the Pacific-Asia region both saw tourism grow by 7 percent, and the Americas also reported strong numbers overall, driven by the sustained strong demand in South America ( up 8 percent) and Central America (up 7 percent).
Worldwide, international tourist arrivals surpassed 131 million in the first two months of 2012, up from 124 million in the same period of 2011.
According to the forecast prepared by UNWTO at the beginning of the year, international tourist arrivals are projected to increase by about 3 percent to 4 percent in 2012. For the year as a whole, the number of international tourist arrivals is expected to reach one billion for the first time.