World tourism rebounds to surpass 2009 records, U.N. says

Results through August show that international tourism continues to recover from the decline of 4.2 percent suffered last year under the impact of the economic crisis.

In the first eight months of this year, the number of international tourist arrivals exceeded the record achieved during the same period of the pre-crisis year 2008. According to the latest issue of the World Tourism Barometer, worldwide arrivals between January and August totaled 642 million, some 40 million and 7 percent more than during the same months of 2009 and 1 million more than in the same period of the record year 2008. Based on current trends, the number of international tourist arrivals is projected to increase in the range of 5 to 6 percent over the full year. In 2011, growth is expected to continue at a more moderate pace, at around the long-term average of 4, said the World Tourism Organization, a U.N. agency.

Emerging destinations continued to lead growth while Europe recovers at a slower pace Worldwide, international tourist arrivals grew by 7 percent in the first eight months of 2010 compared to the same period of 2009. Results are positive in all world regions. Emerging economies however continue to lead the way, growing through August at a rate of 8 percent compared with 5 percent for advanced economies, the barometer showed.

The traditional high-season months of the Northern Hemisphere clearly set new records, attracting 112 million in July and 108 million international arrivals in August. These 220 million represented an extra 8 million arrivals over arrivals in the peak year 2008, and 12 million more compared with the crisis year 2009. Results were strongest in March (+9 percent), May (+11 percent) and June (+9 percent), in contrast to the seriously negative trends during those same months a year earlier, the agency said. April showed the weakest results (+2 percent) following the closure of European airspace due to the Icelandic volcano’s ash cloud.
Although recovery is still lagging in parts of Europe and the Americas, many destinations are already showing real growth and setting new records. Asia and the Pacific has once again shown resilience and a strong capacity for recovery.

Growth was also strong in the Middle East although this was based on a very depressed first eight months in 2009. Africa, the only region to show growth in 2009, maintained the momentum and was up 9 percent, further helped by the worldwide publicity created by the World Football Cup hosted by South Africa.

In the Americas growth has been strong in North and Central America (each up 9 percent). South America is on a par with the worldwide average, while the Caribbean is showing a lower rate of growth with a 3 percent increase, the agency said.

The positive trend during 2010 is reflected in the steady rise of the U.N. Tourism Confidence Index. A clear majority of the members of the tourism organization’s panel of experts evaluated the past eight months of 2010 as “better” or “much better.” The rating of prospects for the period September to December has also further improved, and is up for the fifth consecutive period from the deep trough a year ago.

International tourism receipts continue to lag somewhat behind arrivals in many destinations, as is generally the trend in recovery periods. The same trend is observed in tourism expenditure from the major source markets. Among the top ten markets, in terms of expenditure abroad, positive but modest increases came from traditional source markets, particularly from Germany, the United States, France, Italy and Japan.

As in recent years, emerging economies are driving the market’s growth and showing strong increases in tourism expenditure abroad, most notably China (up 22 percent), the Russia Federation (up 26 percent) and Brazil (up 4 percent).

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