With the trade element of ITB Berlin now entering its final hours, thoughts are turning to tourism in 2011, with growth expected to continue, but at a slower pace.
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation is forecasting an increase in international tourist arrivals of between four and five per cent – a rate slightly above the long-term average.
However, the impact of the events of the past couple of months, which continue to cause huge concerns for the global travel and tourism industry, remains uncertain.
Egypt and Tunisia, for example, face many challenged as they seek to regain their positions on the international tourist trail.
It also remains to be seen what impact natural disasters in Christchurch, New Zealand, and now Japan have on visitor numbers to affected regions.
Early January forecasts for the Middle East pointed to strong growth in arrivals in 2011 of between seven and ten per cent but this will be difficult to achieve now.
The negative impact is likely to be less significant on overall trends for Africa – Sub-Saharan Africa should continue to benefit from the worldwide exposure during the FIFA World Cup last year – but North Africa is bound to be affected.
Nevertheless, UNWTO seems fairly optimistic, welcoming efforts by the national authorities of Egypt and Tunisia to restore confidence among tourists and by foreign governments to update travel advisories accordingly.
Tourism is a central component of both countries’ economies, it says, and as tourists begin to return, can play an important role in overall economic recovery.
As the situation in both Egypt and Tunisia returns to normal, tourism stakeholders from the private and public sectors have reacted accordingly.
Major tourism sites are open to the public, airlines have resumed flights, tour operators in many of the main source markets have restarted selling holidays and governments have updated their travel advisories to reflect the unfolding situation.
The British Foreign office was among those rescinding travel warnings, with Luxor, Aswan and the Red Sea Resorts, including Sharm-el-Sheikh, all now open to visitors.