THE world tourism industry is expected to grow an average of 4.2 per cent for the next 10 years, according to World Travel and Tourism Council president Jean-Claude Baumgarten.
He was speaking to media on the sidelines of the Global Travel & Tourism Summit in Washington DC. The event was the largest yet with over 700 delegates from over 60 countries.
“We are seeing the industry experience continuous growth for the first time since September 11, 2001,” he said, adding that China is emerging as a lucrative new source of tourists ready to travel the globe. “This trend will undoubtedly continue for the next 10 years. It is going to be a good time for our industry.”
But not all markets will see the same rate of growth. Growth is expected to be moderate in older markets like Europe or the US, but very strong in emerging economies like India and China. “We are in a new era of tourism and travel as global demographics are changing at a very rapid rate. China and India have a huge impact because numbers are so large,” said J W Marriott, Jr, chairman and CEO of Marriott International, a worldwide hotel chain.
The council projects that tourism from China will grow at the annual rate of eight per cent over the next decade. Infrastructure however will have to be considerably upgraded.
Hotel supply is not yet sufficient, said Baumgarten, especially in the area of moderately-priced hotels. He said China is expected will buy 2,000 commercial aircraft in the 10 coming years.
America gets friendly
One message reiterated at the summit was that the US needs to adopt a national travel and tourism policy as well as to create a national tourism body. This was highlighted in presentations by leading US state officials, in particular by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who pledged to make America friendlier.
She said the US government was responding to worldwide criticism that security measures after the September 11 attacks were keeping out legitimate travellers. “I know some of our additional security measures after 9/11 have caused delays in getting visas and led some citizens to believe the United States no longer welcomes them. We have heard these legitimate concerns and we are doing everything we can to improve our visa policy while maintaining our security,” she said, adding that steps were in place to make American airports friendlier. She said that making travel harder for the terrorist made terror attacks harder and pointed out the need to enhance the security of international travel.
The US Government is moving ahead with the introduction of e-passports and electronic visa applications, and has established a network of new business visa centres that are now assisting 35,000 travellers each month. The US expects to welcome 52 million foreign visitors this year to work, study or on leisure trips. Americans are expected to make 60 million trips overseas.