Despite terror threats, Middle East conflict, world tourism up 4.5 per cent, UN reports
World tourism continues to exceed expectations, showing resilience against factors such as this summer’s Israeli-Hizbollah war in Lebanon and terrorist threats to air travel, with international arrivals for the first eight months up 4.5 per cent and poised to set another all-time high, according to latest United Nations figures released today.
“The short term outlook remains very positive, especially against the background of a strong world economy and as favourable exchange rates continue to encourage European and Asian travellers,” the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said in its World Tourism Barometer. “International tourism is likely to remain buoyant unless major incidents occur.”
Growth for the whole of 2006 is forecast at 4.6 per cent. Growth is expected to continue in 2007 at around 4 per cent worldwide, which though slightly slower than in previous years, is much in line with UNWTO’s long-term forecast growth rate of 4.1 per cent a year through 2020.
In the first eight months of 2006 international tourist arrivals totalled 578 million worldwide, up from 553 million in the same period of 2005, a year which saw an all-time record of 806 million people travelling internationally.
With an increase of 9.8 per cent for the period, Africa is this year again the world’s regional leader. Sub-Saharan Africa, with 12.6 per cent leads the performance so far, pulled notably by South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, Swaziland and the Seychelles.
Asia-Pacific was the world’s second fastest-growing region in the first eight months with 8.3 per cent. While South and South-Eastern destinations surpassed the average growth and the North East Asia was close to it, arrivals to Oceania were on the negative side.
The Middle East’s results at 6 per cent are on track despite military-political setbacks. Data so far shows that the 34-day conflict between Israel and Lebanon had only very limited impact on the region as a whole. Although it has taken its toll on demand for some destinations, past experience suggests that consumer confidence can recover quickly and international arrivals could end 2006 up by 7.2 per cent.
Europe’s growth of 3.1 per cent is not as modest as it might seem at first glance and if the rate is maintained for the rest of 2006 it would mean 14 million additional arrivals. There has been little evidence of travel plans being cancelled as a result terrorist threats to aircraft, even to the United Kingdom where the plot was centred.
Overall growth for the Americas was a 2.5 per cent. Central America (8.7 per cent), South America (8.1 per cent) and the Caribbean (5.1 per cent) exceeded the global growth average but North America at 0.4 per cent fell well below, pulled down by declines in Canada (4.1 per cent) and Mexico (3.8 per cent) in spite of the 4.3 per cent growth in the United States.