Tourism leaders respond to economic downturn


A “resilience committee” to provide accurate economic analysis and response mechanisms has been created in the face of global economic crisis.
The move by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Executive Council comes as the tourism sector suffers from reduced consumer demand - in both the business and leisure tourism sectors - due to the credit crunch.
International tourism registered solid growth in the first half of 2008, at around 5 per cent between January and April, compared to the same period of 2007. The slowdown began with the summer holidays in the northern hemisphere, according to the organisation.
The panel of experts of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, which up until then maintained favourable views of the sector’s situation, now shows a “perceptible loss of confidence regarding the short-term outlook”.
Addressing the Executive Council at the Madrid meeting in October, UNWTO secretary general Francesco Frangialli said, “Experience teaches us that tourism is resilient, but there is no denying that there is a certain stage of deterioration of the situation beyond which all economic sectors will begin to suffer.”
Signs of an economic downturn had emerged earlier in the year, and although demand still produced solid growth figures in that period, UNWTO commissioned a study of the impacts of economic scenarios on the sector.
An outline of “Global Imbalances and Structural Change in World Tourism” was discussed during the Executive Council which has agreed to create a Resilience Committee open to all of its public and private sector members. It has also agreed to support this work with state of the art information with special focus on air transport and major origin markets. It will provide its members with up-to-date information on these impacts and emerging response initiatives.
A full assessment of the world’s tourism results for the first eight to nine months of 2008 and the first half of 2009 (when the economic slowdown is expected to be more widely felt) forecast will be presented in the next edition of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer at the UNWTO’s Ministers’ Summit at World Travel Market in London on November 11.