Tourism worldwide is suffering a harsher contraction than expected, according to new figures from The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
International visitor numbers slumped 8 percent year-on-year to April, and are predicted to 5-6 percent over the whole of 2009. The UNWTO had previously forecast a 2 percent decline in tourism this year.
Increasing unemployment and uncertainty about the impact of the H1N1 swine flu virus are also inhibiting a possible recovery this year.
UNWTO secretary-general Taleb Rifai told a meeting of the Tourism Society in London: “We are facing a very serious drop in demand. Going back to the good old days is probably unrealistic. Governments have to understand we require policies and actions that do not hinder travel.”
Global travel and tourism has grown at about 4% a year for decades, according to the UNWTO, with worldwide figures generally rising even during previous downturns in major economies.
Rifai pointed to landmarking sporting events such as FIFA 2010 and the London Olympics 2012 as catalysts to reviving the travel and tourism industry.