Global tourism mirrored its international events counterpart last year, according to the U.N. World Tourism Organization, with arrivals up 7 percent to 935 million. As we know, the meetings market also saw huge gains, and industry professionals predict an additional 8 percent jump in international events in 2011 (FutureWatch).
As for the tourism numbers, the U.N. reports that most destinations posted positive figures, sufficient to offset recent losses or bring them close to this target. However, recovery came at different speeds and was primarily driven by emerging economies.
ASIA (+13%) was the first region to recover. International arrivals reached a new record at 204 million last year, up from 181 million in 2009.
AFRICA (+6% to 49 million), the only region to show positive figures in 2009, maintained growth during 2010, benefiting from increasing economic dynamism and the hosting of events such as the FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
MIDDLE EAST (+14% to 60 million) saw almost all destinations grow by 10% or more.
EUROPE (+3% to 471 million) recovery was slower than in other regions due to the air traffic disruption caused by the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano and the economic uncertainty affecting the euro zone. However, the sector gained momentum from the second half of the year and some individual countries performed well above the regional average, though not sufficient to bring overall results above the losses of 2009.
AMERICAS (+8% to 151 million) rebounded from the decline in 2009 brought on by the economic hardship suffered in North America and the impact of the influenza A (H1N1) outbreak. The return to growth in the US economy has helped improve the region’s results as a whole, as did the increasing regional integration in Central and South America and the vitality of Latin American economies. Growth was strongest in SOUTH AMERICA (+10%).
Among the top outbound tourism markets in terms of expenditure abroad, emerging economies continued to drive growth: China (+17%), the Russian Federation (+26%), Saudi Arabia (+28%) and Brazil (+52%). Of the traditional source markets, Australia (+9%), Canada (+8%), Japan (+7%) and France (+4%) rebounded, while more modest growth (2%) came from the U.S., Germany and Italy. Expenditure abroad from the U.K. was still down by 4% in 2010.
The UNWTO forecasts international tourist arrivals to grow between 4% to 5% in 2011, a rate slightly above the long-term average. Persistent high unemployment will remain a concern though, with a gradual recovery in employment expected for 2011 still too weak to compensate for the jobs lost during the economic crisis. The tendency to introduce and increase taxation on travel as a means of balancing public accounts represents a further challenge to the sector.