People are rediscovering travel following the recession, according to data unveiled on the second day of World Travel Market, the premier global event for the travel industry.
Latest figures from the World Travel & Tourism Council show that worldwide, travel and tourism’s gross domestic product is expected to rise by 2% this year, compared with a forecast in January of only 0.5%.
However, the WTTC has urged caution, pointing out this sudden growth spurt means that tourism GDP in 2011 will grow by only 2.7%, compared with 3.2% forecast in January.
Figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organization for the first nine months of this year confirm the progressive recovery of the industry with a 7% increase in international arrivals compared with the same period in 2009.
A high-profile Summit, attended by more than 150 government tourism ministers and their aides, heard about the importance of tourism during the economic recovery. Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of the UNWTO, said: “Tourism should be seen as part of the solution.”
The summit illustrated how governments around the world prioritise tourism differently. China was seen as one of the most progressive, with its central government identifying tourism as one of the country’s key industries, giving it the backing to grow.
Taxation was a recurring theme during the Summit and elsewhere during the day. Ken O’Toole, Ryanair’s New Route Development Director warned airports that the carrier would pull routes if airport charges were increased. On the other hand, airports which reduced fees would see more business.
Other WTM sessions confirmed the search for value among consumers during the past 12 months. A survey of 2,500 US consumers by the Ypartnership and Harrison Group found that their biggest fear was over-paying for travel. A total of 81% of said they were looking to save money on their travel plans, while 35% said they waited for sales before purchasing.
Another showed how cruising bucked the trend during 2010 as consumers increasingly recognised this all-inclusive type of holiday as value for money. Last year saw several additional vessels enter the ex-UK market, which means Northern Europe has now overtaken the Caribbean in terms of annual cruise visitors.
Cruise chiefs at a WTM debate called for joint marketing agreements between cruise lines and ports similar to those struck between tour operators and resorts and airports and low-cost airlines.
Cruise bosses agreed that passengers bought their product on the basis of itineraries, rather than individual ship preference.
Cunard President Peter Shanks urged Cruise Baltic – which represents 27 ports in 10 countries – to “squeeze out more money” for marketing the region and its offerings.