Industry will bounce back, say experts


The events of September 11 in the USA and more recent terrorist attacks in Bali and Moscow have had, and will continue to have, a severe impact on travel and tourism demand. Yet there are clear signs of a recovery, reflecting Œthe resilience of the industry and consumers' demand for travel after one of the biggest confidence crises in the history of tourism.

Pre-11 September growth levels should start to resume from 2003, and growth from some key source markets will even be positive in 2002. This was the main message to come out of three days of intensive discussions between world tourism experts gathered in Pisa in November for the ninth World Travel Monitor Forum.

The forum comprised some 50 heads of research and marketing representing national tourism organisations, research institutes, industry associations and individual corporations from over 30 different countries. These included all major European outbound travel markets, the USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries and Morocco.

"After a decline of 1 per cent in international tourism in 2001, we now expect a 1 per cent increase for 2002," said Rolf Freitag, president of IPK and founder of the World Travel Monitor.

"This forecast, which is based on the results of the World Travel Monitor Ñ as well as the findings of our partners and other tourism experts from around the world - would mean a return to the record level achieved in 2000."

Next year should see a 2-3 per cent rise and growth will pick up slowly to around 3-4 per cent by 2004.

According to Suzanne Cook and Helen Marano, representing the Travel Industry Association of America and the US Department of Commerce at the Forum, US outbound travel demand expressed in terms of total spending is forecast to fall by a relatively modest 2 per cent for the full 12 months of 2002, after a decrease of 5 per cent in 2001.

The outlook for Europe is much less pessimistic, although international arrivals in the region will probably show little change over last year's level.

"The main long-haul destination to buck the trend has been China, as seen by both the results of the European Travel Monitor and data gathered by PATA," John Koldowski off the Pacific Asia Travel Association said. "But a number of other Asian destinations and South Africa have similarly recorded double-digit growth out of Europe this year."

India is another Asian source that appears to have recorded strong double-digit growth in 2002, and IPK has plans to add it to the list of markets surveyed on a regular basis by the World Travel Monitor. Australian outbound travel is predicted to show a very modest increase in 2001, said Stephen O'Neill of the Australia Tourist Commission, but the overall annual growth forecast for the market over the next ten years is as high as 6-7 per cent. During this period there will be a continuing shift towards shorter-haul Asian destinations.

There has also been a marked change in the preferred destinations of travellers from GCC, said Gautam Sengupta of Market Vision, the World Travel Monitor partner in Dubai.

Demand for Turkey, the U7SA, Spain, the UK and Greece has shifted to destinations within the Middle East region, Southeast and South Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Dubai is one example of a destination that continues to sustain its appeal, and Morocco expects to end 2002 only 2-3 per cent down on last year's level.

IPK International expects to release the preliminary results of its Generation project in March 2003, highlighting the impact of ageing populations on international travel and tourism demand over the next 20 years.