International tourism fell 8% in the first four months of this year compared to the same period in 2008, according to the new edition of the thrice-yearly UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.
Arrivals fell to 247m arrivals, but the tourism body estimates that the rate of decline is expected to ease during the remainder of 2009. Current market conditions mean that international tourism is now forecast to decrease by between 4% and 6% in 2009.
However, the level of advance bookings, plus the reduction in airline capacity, make recovery before 2010 difficult, says the UNWTO. Additional uncertainty has been compounded by the outbreak of swine flu.
All regions except Africa recorded a decrease in arrivals for the first four months of 2009. The positive results in Africa (+3%) reflect the strength of North African destinations especially Morocco and Tunisia, and the recovery of Kenya as one of leading Sub-Saharan destinations.
North America fell 5% have because of the slowdown of the US both as a source market and a destination.
Although the decline in the Middle East is significant (-18%), complete figures are not available and arrivals are expected to be well above 2007 levels.
Middle East reported a sharp reversal of fortunes - down 18 percent - due in most part to the very strong decline for Saudi Arabia.
“Africa’s growth of three percent was very positive compared with the world’s performance overall,” the agency said.