International tourism continues to grow
International tourist arrivals grew by 4.5% in the first four months of 2011, according to the latest issue of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. Growth was positive in all regions with the exception of the Middle East. Growth in Asia Pacific (+5%) was in line with the world average, but slightly below previous growth levels. Asia, and in particular Northeast Asia, suffered the impact of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan which affected both its inbound and outbound travel as well as intra-regional travel from other markets. Some sub-regions achieved double-digit growth: South America (+17%), South Asia (+14%) and Southeast Asia (+10%).
“Global tourism continues to consolidate the recovery of 2010 despite the impact of recent developments in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the tragic events in Japan, which are temporarily affecting travel flows to these regions. We should nonetheless remain vigilant as we face other persisting uncertainties such as high unemployment and increased public austerity measures,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.
UNWTO expects that destinations currently facing difficulties will see demand recover towards the end of the year. “It is time to support those destinations and help their tourism sectors to rebound, contributing to overall economic and social stability and progress,” Rifai added.
Between January and April 2011 destinations worldwide recorded 268 million international tourist arrivals, some 12 million more compared to the 256 million registered in the same period in 2010. April was the strongest month with an estimated increase of 6%. This reflects a late Easter holiday and contrasts with the weak April of 2010 when European airspace was closed for nearly a week due to the ash cloud following the eruption of a volcano in Iceland. January (+6%) was also strong, while February and March were comparatively weaker (both at around 3%).
Europe exceeded expectations (+6%) and posted the highest growth in the first four months of 2011. Results reflect a delayed recovery in various European destinations and source markets, the late Easter holiday and the compensation for the negative month of April 2010, affected by the volcanic ash cloud. Destinations in Northern, Eastern and Southern Europe performed particularly well.
In the Americas, international tourist arrivals increased by 5%, driven by the strong results of South America, which contrasted with the below average growth of North and Central American destinations.
The Middle East (-14%) and North Africa (-11%) have been considerably affected by recent developments. Nonetheless, some destinations in the Middle East have shown particularly positive results, such as Saudi Arabia and Dubai (United Arab Emirates), demonstrating the dynamism of the sector in the region. Within Africa (+2%), arrivals to Sub-Saharan Africa (+8%) stand out.
UNWTO has maintained its forecast for international tourist arrivals in 2011 at between 4% and 5%, slightly above the long-term average and in line with previous assessments. The developments in the Middle East, North Africa and Japan are not expected to significantly alter the global forecast.