The expansion of the European Union to include eastern Europe has lead to a rise in immigration for both humanitarian and economic reasons to western Europe, according to Euromonitor International.
This new type of tourism is set to have a major impact on the travel industry, starting with low cost airlines which have enabled these diaspora to travel frequently to their homelands.
Diaspora tourism is divided into the three main categories of heritage, residential and festival tourism. Heritage tourists generally tend to return home to learn more about their ancestry, and often take part in language or cooking courses from their country of origin.
Residential tourism mainly encompasses young adults who had emigrated for economic reasons, and due to earning more money in their new country were now more able to visit and invest in property in their home countries.
Festival tourism is driven by people who return to their origins to take part in important events and festivals.
The increasing eastern European diaspora has therefore resulted in niche travel agencies cropping up to cater to heritage tourism. On trips home, many eastern Europeans also arrange, for example, a visit to the dentist or doctor to take advantage of the cost savings, providing opportunities for suppliers in medical tourism.
Additionally, Eastern European tourist boards are stepping up their marketing efforts towards these tourists to further encourage return trips.
UNWTO considers eastern Europe to consist of the countries of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Belarus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia and Ukraine.
The Russian Federation (20,199,000), Ukraine (18,936,000) and Poland (15,670,000)) received the largest numbers of tourist arrivals in 2006 (UNWTO figures).
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released passenger and freight traffic forecasts projecting that in 2011 the air transport industry will handle 2.75 billion passengers (620 million more passengers than in 2006).
International passenger demand is expected to rise from 760 million passengers in 2006 to 980 million in 2011 at an annual average growth rate (AAGR) of 5.1 per cent.
IATA expected domestic passenger demand to grow from 1.37 billion passengers in 2006 to 1.77 billion in 2011, an AAGR of 5.3 per cent, fuelled by expansion in the Indian and Chinese domestic markets.
“The numbers clearly show that the world wants to fly. And it also needs to fly. Air transport is critical to the fabric of the global economy, playing a critical role in wealth generation and poverty reduction. The livelihoods of 32 million people are tied to aviation, accounting for $3.5 trillion in economic activity,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s director general and CEO.
IATA has a clear four pillar strategy to take aviation to carbon neutral growth in the medium term, based on investment in technology, more effective operations, efficient infrastructure and appropriate economic measures. “The growing demand for aviation is an opportunity for sound investment in a green future,” said Bisignani.
European international passenger demand is expected to increase with an AAGR of 5.0 per cent over the period translating into 150 million more international passengers by 2011. While the growth rate is slower than the global average, eastern Europe will see a more rapid average annual expansion with Latvia (12.1 per cent), Poland (9.2 per cent), Ukraine (8.8 per cent), Serbia (7.6 per cent) and Romania (7.3 per cent) being the top growth markets.