In 2008, international tourist arrivals reached 924
million, up 16 million over 2007, representing a growth of 2%.
Weakening Overall Demand
The overall 2% growth in international tourism
for 2008 builds on the strong results of the first part of the
year before the collapse of the financial markets. The second half
of the year showed an abrupt shift in trend with international
tourist arrivals flat or showing negative growth in each of the
last six months of 2008.
Overall, the 5% growth between January and June
gave way to a 1% decline in the second half of the year. Though
certainly not immune to the economic woes, tourism has initially
resisted the economic downturn better than other economic sectors,
such as construction, real estate or car manufacturing.
As the current troubled economic scenario is
expected to continue well into 2009 and probably beyond, UNWTO’s
initial forecast for this year is for an even more modest
According to the January 2009 issue of the UNWTO
World Tourism Barometer, international tourism is expected to
stagnate or even decline slightly during the year. But, there is
still a high degree of uncertainty and much will depend on the
evolving economic conditions. If the economy starts to show signs
of an earlier recovery, international tourism might grow slightly
in 2009 but, if the economy deteriorates further, then the current
forecast might be revised downwards.
Mixed Results by Region in 2008
year as a whole, all regions were positive except Europe, which
suffered a stagnation in arrivals. The best performances were
registered in the Middle East (+11%), Africa (+5%) and the
Americas (+4%) – in the case of the Americas, due to the strength
of traffic to the USA up to August and the favourable performance
of most Central and Southern American destinations.
was negative in the last six months of 2008 in both Europe (-3%)
and Asia (-3%). The drop is even more significant in Asia given
its double digit growth in 2007 and strong showing in the first
part of 2008 (+6%). On the other hand, the Americas (+1%), Africa
(+4%) and the Middle East (+5%) still posted positive results in
the second half of the year, although with a significant slowdown
compared with the period between January and June.
the general deceleration, in 2008 several destinations around the
world showed very positive results in all world regions, - notably
Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Uruguay, the Republic of Korea, Macao
(China), Indonesia, India, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco and
These results reflect international tourist
arrivals only, for which comprehensive data is currently
available. For domestic tourism, which is highly important for
many destinations, UNWTO expects that it will show a more or less
similar slowing trend. Results for international tourism receipts
will be presented in a later stage. However, the experience of
past years suggests that the growth of receipts tends to follow
fairly closely that of arrivals.
2009 Outlook linked to
Global Economic Performance
The slowdown in advanced
economies, which are facing a contraction in gross domestic
product for the first time since World War II, is already
spreading to major emerging markets such as China, India, and
UNWTO expects 2009 international tourism to be in
the range of 0% to a 2% decline. Along with the Americas, Europe
will be the most affected region in terms of overall tourism
results as most of its source markets are already in, or entering
into, recession. In Asia and the Pacific results are expected to
be positive, although growth will continue to be much slower
compared with the region’s performance in recent years; the same
applies to Africa and the Middle East.
assessment, UNWTO highlights the fact that the softening of
international tourism growth follows four historically strong
years, +7% a year on average between 2004 and 2007, or well above
the 4% long-term trend.
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