UNWTO predicts 4pc growth for 2007

Celebrating at the Minstrel Carnival in Cape Town

THE industry can expect a fourth consecutive year of sustained growth, according to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.

With 842 million arrivals and a 4.5 per cent growth rate, 2006 exceeded expectations as the tourism sector continued to enjoy above average results, making it a new record year for the industry, and the UNWTO expects that 2007 will consolidate this performance.
“Despite downside risks facing global tourism twelve months ago – in particular terrorism, health scares due to avian flu and rising oil prices – 2006 was another year of good growth above the long-term forecast rate of 4.1 per cent, backed up by one of the longest periods of sustained economic expansion,” said UNWTO secretary general Francesco Frangialli.
One of the features of 2006 has been the continued positive results of emerging destinations, underscoring the links to economic progress. As one of the most dynamic economic sectors, tourism has a key role among the instruments to fight against poverty, thus becoming a primary tool for sustainable development.
Africa has outpaced all other regions with almost twice the rate of global growth reaching 8.1 per cent in 2006, following a strong 2005. This performance was led by Subsaharan Africa (+9.4 per cent), while North Africa (+5.8 per cent) ended 2006 above average. South Africa, Kenya and Morocco all posted excellent results.
In the Middle East, international arrivals are estimated to have risen by 4 per cent in 2006, in spite of the geopolitical situation.
Asia and the Pacific (+7.6 per cent) was able to maintain its extraordinary growth, both due to the Thailand and the Maldives posting a recovery from the December 2004 tsunami, and because of remarkable perform-ances from emerging destinations – international arrivals in South Asia grew 10 per cent, boosted by India, which was responsible for half all arrivals to the sub-region.
Europe performed on target last year (+4 per cent), with Germany benefiting from the Football World Cup 2006 and Italy and Spain posting positive results.
Although the Americas two-percent growth might seem disappointing, regional results vary considerably: the rise in the USA was not sufficient to compensate for weak develop-ment in Canada and Mexico. On the other hand, the results from Central (+6.1 per cent) and South America (+7.2 per cent) show how Latin America is on track to consolidate the positive outcome of recent years.
The increase in international tourist arrivals for 2007 is projected to be around 4 per cent, in line with the forecast long-term annual growth rate of 4.1 per cent through 2020. Growth is expected to be more solid as stakeholders anticipate shocks and respond more effectively.
Travellers are better informed and have become more adept at weighing their options and now treat security as just another consideration among others when choosing their destinations.
As a whole, the global economy is expected to maintain last year’s growth level. Oil prices have shown a tendency to remain less volatile, but some uncertainties remain, including increasing interest rates in some countries and regions that could diminish available income, and a weak US dollar that might affect American foreign travel. On the other hand, a stronger euro could stimulate European international travel.