The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) said that the worst was over for global tourism and the industry was on the road to recovery.
The news came as the International Tourism Trade Fairs Association (ITTFA), an affiliate of the UNWTO, revealed that the exhibitions industry also showed its resilience in the first half of last year despite the worldwide downturn.
The UNWTO’s optimistic forecast was revealed in its World Tourism Barometer, which it publishes in January, June and October every year.
Tourism demand experienced a sharp downturn in the middle of 2008 and, as expected, the decline in demand intensified in 2009 under the impact of the rapid deterioration of the world economy and of the Influenza A (H1N1) outbreak. International tourist arrivals worldwide declined by seven per cent in the period January to July 2009, compared to a still very bullish first part of 2008.
However, the latest data from the October barometer indicates that decline in international tourism may have bottomed out. Preliminary results for July and August, the two high-season months, show a smaller decline compared to the same months last year.
In absolute terms, the number of international tourist arrivals worldwide is estimated to have reached 600 million between January and August 2009, down from 643 million in the same period of 2008. Following negative results since September last year, all of these eight months of 2009 also showed negative growth equating to a relative decline of seven per cent.
However not all regions are struggling. Africa has continued to post good results, up 3.8 per cent, year to date and some others such as South America, the Caribbean, Oceania and South East Asia, did better than the world average of -7 per cent. Hardest hit were South Asia, North America, Northern Europe, southern and Mediterranean Europe (all four between -7 and -8 per cent), Central and Eastern Europe (-10.6 per cent) and the Middle East (-7.6 per cent). The Middle East was looking much harder hit pre-summer but between June and September arrivals have picked up, showing positive figures.
Breaking the regions down, various countries worldwide bucked the overall negative trend posting positive growth. Among these were Morocco up eight per cent January to July and Sweden 1.2 per cent.
Meanwhile, the ITTFA said that in general, its member shows did fair well in the first half of 2009 with business as usual at many shows.
“Despite the recession, 2009 got off to a good start for members with solid bookings and space sold well. Visitor numbers may have been down in some cases but this is not necessarily a negative and often creates an even more favourable marketing opportunity as attendees will be key industry players and more focused,” said ITTFA chairman Tom Nutley.
Overall, although much uncertainty persists, there are signs indicating that the lowest point may have been reached in the tourism sector, said Nutley.
“Data on international tourism for the months of July and August shows a relative improvement over previous months. Arrivals have declined by 3.4 per cent as compared to decrease rates of 10 per cent in May and seven per cent in June. The International Air Transport Assoication (Iata) reports that in July passengers’ demand for international scheduled flights fell by three per cent and in August by one per cent with September showing a slight increase (+0.3 per cent) after a year of declines and according to the monthly report on trends in the supply of domestic and international airline flights and seats by OAG, a global aviation data company, worldwide airline capacity for October 2009 is showing positive growth for the third consecutive month.”
“Although the unfavourable economic conditions are expected to continue affecting the industry, the rates of decline appear to be easing and are expected to continue doing so,” Nutley concluded.
TTN is the most established trade publication in the Middle East distributed on a controlled circulation basis to members of the travel and tourism industry.
Published monthly by Al Hilal Publishing and Marketing Group, the region’s foremost trade publisher, TTN is aimed at professionals in the industry, from travel agents to airline and hotel personnel.
TTN provides in-depth and extensive coverage of relevant issues in the Middle East and North Africa as well as in other parts of the world. Travel related news, analysis, and new appointments together with information on up-coming exhibitions, marketing and promotional campaigns are presented in an innovative and striking colour tabloid.
Every issue also contains a collation of international and regional news and topical features of interest to readers.