The UNWTO has said it believes the conditions of
the tourism market are starting to indicate stronger prospects for
a recovery in 2010. These include macroeconomic upward revisions
from the IMF together with preliminary international tourism
figures until August this year. This suggests some moderation in
the declining results of the first half of this year.
In addition, the UNWTO Panel of Experts
Confidence Index reflects stronger confidence in market
conditions. International arrivals declined by 4% in July this
year, a relative improvement when compared to decreases of 10% in
May and 7% in June. Many destinations show a similar pattern of a
gradual change for the better, particularly in Asia, Europe and
the Middle East.
The negative trend in international tourism
that emerged during the second half of 2008 intensified in 2009
under the impact of the rapid deterioration of the world economy,
combined in various destinations with the effects of Swine Flu (H1N1) outbreak this spring. Based on preliminary results from
about 140 destination countries, international tourist arrivals
worldwide are estimated to have declined by 7% in the period
January to July 2009, compared to the same period last year.
In absolute terms, the number of international tourist
arrivals worldwide reached 500 million in the first seven months
of 2009, down from 540 million in the same period of 2008.
Arrivals in 2009 are currently between the levels of 2007 and
2006. The first seven months of the year generally account for
roughly 57% of the total annual number.
Though much uncertainty persists, there are signs indicating
that the turning point may also have been reached in the tourism
sector. Data for July show a relative improvement and for
countries that already reported data for August, these two high
season months have not in general been as depressed as the first
six months of the year. Other industry indicators from air
transport and accommodation sectors corroborate this upward trend.
“As the latest economic data and prospects indicate that the
world economy may be starting to emerge from its most severe
recession of the post second world war period, in tourism too
there are signs that confidence is returning and that demand is
improving for both business and leisure travel” said UNWTO
Secretary-General a.i. Taleb Rifai.
With the exception of Africa, all regions recorded a decrease
in arrivals for the first seven months of 2009:
(-8%) is still enduring the impact of recession in the majority of
its source markets but the encouraging improvement in data for the
peak month of July (-4% as compared to -11% in May and -7% in
June) shows that demand might be picking up in the world's most
- Results have also improved in Asia and the
Pacific (-6%) where some destinations such as the Republic of
Korea or Malaysia, are bucking the overall negative trend with
significant increases. It is even very likely that Asia has
returned to positive growth in August, as many destinations
already reported data for this month showing significant
- In the Americas (-7%) though there was also a
lower decline rate in July this has not been as significant as in
Europe due to the fact that some destinations have been impacted
by Swine Flu (H1N1) outbreak.
- Although the decline in
the Middle East is significant (-13%), this is the only region,
apart from Africa, which has posted positive results in June and
July this year. Arrivals are still well above the 2007 level as
the current decline follows two very strong growth years. Also in
the Middle East various destinations bucked the overall trend and
report noteworthy growth rates, i.e. Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon or
- The positive results in Africa (+4%) reflect the
strength of North African destinations around the Mediterranean
and the positive results of destinations such as Kenya, South
Africa or Swaziland.
conditions, combined with the uncertainties brought about H1N1, are expected to continue impacting tourism
demand – at least in the short term. As decline rates are
anticipated to ease during the remainder of 2009, international
tourism is forecast to decrease within a range of -6% and -4% this
year. And though many subregions might return to growth in the
last months of 2009, this will not be enough to compensate for the
losses felt so far. Growth for the full year is projected to be
negative in all regions, except for Africa.
reflect international tourist arrivals only, for which
comprehensive data is currently available. Domestic markets,
highly important for many destinations and actively stimulated by
numerous governments during the crisis, are expected to have done
comparatively better. Still, this will not compensate for the
losses in international markets. As in previous crises, tourism
earnings are expected to suffer somewhat more than arrivals as
consumers tend to trade down, stay closer to home and travel for
shorter periods of time.
“Long- term prospects remain positive if
the sector is able to address its challenges in a coordinated and
effective manner,” said Secretary-General a.i. Taleb Rifai.
“Today, world leaders are working together in ways that would have
been unimaginable at any time in the past, to coordinate and
collaborate on economy, climate response and the development
agenda. The tourism sector should do the same on the road to
recovery and towards a more sustainable industry.”
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