World Tourism Down 8%
International tourism declined by 8 percent between January and April compared to the same period last year, according to the June edition of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. Destinations worldwide recorded a total of 247 million international tourist arrivals in those four months, down from 269 million in 2008. Given the changes in the outlook UNWTO has revised its forecast for the full year 2009. Taking account of the results for the first four months of the year and the current market conditions, international tourism is now forecast to decrease by between 6 percent and 4 percent in 2009, as the pace of decline is expected to ease during the remainder of 2009.
With the exception of Africa, all regions recorded a decrease in arrivals for the first four months of 2009, according to the U.N. World Tourism Organization.:
In Europe tourism is down 10 percent as the majority of source markets have struggled with the recession since the end of 2008. Moreover, outbound tourism of the second largest market (UK) has endured the depreciation of the pound sterling.
Overall, the Americas have suffered a 5 percent slowdown due to the U.S. both as a source market and a destination. Still, South America was the only sub-region outside of Africa to buck the general downward trend, registering an increase of 0.2 percent.
For Asia and the Pacific a 6 percent decline in demand has been more than was expected and is particularly severe when compared to results from recent years.
Although the 18 percent decline in the Middle East is significant, complete data is not available and arrivals are still expected to be well above the 2007 levels.
The positive result in Africa – 3 percent growth – reflects the strength of North African destinations around the Mediterranean and the recovery of Kenya as one of leading Sub-Saharan destinations.
The negative trend in international tourism that emerged during the second half of 2008 intensified in 2009. In view of the rapidly deteriorating global economic situation, economic growth prospects have repeatedly been adjusted downwards over the past six months. While at the time of the previous UNWTO forecast in January, the International Monetary Fund was still counting on positive growth of more than 2 percent for the world economy in 2009, a decline of 1.3 percent is now expected.
Tourism is seriously impacted, given the sharp reduction in business activity, decreasing disposable income and associated increased unemployment, particularly in key tourism source markets. Exchange rate fluctuations have added to the general uncertainty and business and consumer confidence have yet to recover. Furthermore, the level of advanced bookings, coupled with the reduction in airline capacity, make recovery before 2010 difficult, the UNWTO predicted.
There is additional uncertainty regarding the future of the influenza A(H1N1) virus and its effect on demand in the short to medium term. It should be stressed, however, that at the moment no restrictions on international travel are recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Taking account of the results for the first four months of the year and the current conditions, worldwide international tourist arrivals is expected to be down from 6 percent to 4 percent for the full year. The pace of decline is expected to soften in the remainder of the year, with the months May-August projected down at between 6 percent and 4 percent, and September-December down between 5 precent and 3 percent.
2008 receipts follow the pace of arrivals
International tourism receipts rose by 1.8 percent in 2008 (in real terms), virtually equalling growth in international tourist arrivals (up 1.9 percentto 922 million). UNWTO estimates that worldwide receipts from international tourism reached US$ 944 billion last year, up from US$ 857 billion in 2007. Last year’s substantial increase in absolute terms is to some degree a reflection of the weakening of the dollar, which boosted receipts expressed in the currency. In euro terms, receipts increased to 642 billion, from 625 billion in 2007.
In 2008, there were only slight changes in the rankings of both international tourist arrivals and receipts. In arrivals, France remains the world’s major tourism destination (79 million tourists) and in receipts, third. The U.S. is first in receipts and now second in arrivals after regaining the position it lost to Spain after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Spain ranks third in arrivals, but has firmly maintained its position as the second worldwide earner and the first in Europe. China, fourth in arrivals, is still fifth in terms of receipts, while the reverse is true for Italy.
Travel & Tourism can be part of the solution
Against a progressively more difficult environment, UNWTO has been increasing its efforts to provide the sector, and its members in particular, with the necessary support to face these challenging times under the Roadmap for Recovery.
Travel and tourism can support short-term stimulus actions, namely those aimed at creating and sustaining jobs, as well as the long-term transformation to a green economy.
Tourism is one of the largest employment sectors in most countries and a fast entry vehicle into the workforce for young people and women in urban and rural communities, directly, or through its strong multiplier effect on related services, manufacturing or agriculture.
Actions are needed to boost trade promotion, simplify regulation, build infrastructure and rationalise taxes, which in turn incite companies to invest, innovate and stimulate demand. This kind of public-private sector collaboration should be strongly advanced within and between all states – it will help build resilience and recovery across economies.