Global tourism should rebound strongly in 2010 after the credit crisis and swine flu produced “one of the most difficult years” for the industry, according to a new report from the UN World Tourism Organisation.
It predicts growth of between 3 and 4 percent in 2010 after a fourth-quarter recovery in 2009. This follows a less-than-expected 4 percent fall to 880 million international arrivals in 2009, due to surprising growth in the fourth quarter, led by the Asia, Pacific and Middle East regions.
“The global economic crisis aggravated by the uncertainty around the ... (H1N1) pandemic turned 2009 into one of the toughest years for the tourism sector,” UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai told a news conference in Madrid.
“However, the results of recent months suggest that recovery is underway, and even somewhat earlier and at a stronger pace than initially expected,” he added.
The 2010 growth outlook was “confirmed by the remarkable rise of the WNWTO Panel of Experts Confidence index”.
However he caution that 2010 would still be a challenging year.
“Many countries were quick in reacting to the crisis and actively implemented measures to mitigate its impact and stimulate recovery.
“Although we expect growth to return in 2010, a premature withdrawal of these stimulus measures and the temptation to impose extra taxes may jeopardise the pace of rebound in tourism,” he added.
He also said that Europe and North America are lagging behind Asia and the Middle East in the recovery.
By region, Europe has fared the worst in the downturn, finishing 2009 6.0 percent down due to a very poor first half of the year.
Tourism in Asia and the Pacific fell 2.0 percent but had “showed an extraordinary rebound.” Arrival slumped by 7.0 percent between January and June, the second half of 2009 saw 3.0 percent growth “reflecting regional economic results and prospects.”
Arrivals were down 6.0 percent in the Middle East. But the region, “though still far from the growth levels of previous years, had a positive second half.”
In the Americas, where arrivals were down 5.0 percent, the Caribbean returned to growth in the last four months of 2009.
Africa “bucked the trend” with growth of 5.0 percent.