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UNWTO: International Tourism Healthy in First Half of 2011

September 7, 2011 By: Michele Herrmann


(c) 2011 UNWTO

International tourism had a healthy start for the first part of 2011, but its growth is expected to soften over time due to world economic uncertainty, according to recent findings by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

A media release from UNWTO on this report states international tourism is estimated to have grown by almost 5 percent in the first half of 2011. The results appear to confirm that despite many challenges this area continues to return to the growth amount initiated in 2010.

Between January and June of 2011, the UNWTO reports that number of international tourist arrivals is said to have reached 440 million, a rise of 19 million than in the same period of 2010.

Along with tourism, advanced economies are growing faster than expected, and are closing the gap with emerging economies (+4.8 percent), which have been driving international tourism growth in recent areas. This trend reflects the decreases registered in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as a slight slowdown in the growth of some Asian destinations following a very strong 2010.

Commenting on this result, UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai stated this sustained growth in tourism during tough economic times makes a strong case for it and reinforces calls for officials to consider tourism as a priority in national policies. 

“Tourism can play a key role in terms of economic growth and development, particularly at a moment when many economies, for the most part in Europe and North America, struggle for recovery and job creation," he said.

UNTWO reports all world (sub)regions showed positive trends, with the exception of the Middle East and North Africa.

Results were better than expected in Europe (+6 percent), boosted by the recovery of Northern Europe (+7 percent) and Central and Eastern Europe (+9 percent). These results also extend to temporary redistribution of travel to destinations in Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+7 percent) due to developments in North Africa (-13 percent) and the Middle East (-11 percent). Sub-Saharan Africa (+9 percent) continued to perform soundly.

The Americas (+6 percent) were slightly above the world average, with remarkably strong results for South America (+15 percent). Asia and the Pacific grew at a comparatively slower pace of 5 percent, but this more than consolidates its 13 percent bumper growth of 2010.

Rifai also commented on results from recent months showing destinations such as Egypt, Tunisia, or Japan are picking up in demands for tourism where there had been serious decline.

So far, the growth of international tourism arrivals is very much in line with the initial forecast issued by UNWTO at the beginning of 2011, 4 percent to 5 percent, for the full year 2011, a rate slightly above the 4 percent long-term average.

However, UNWTO reports that growth in the remainder of the year is expected to soften somewhat as recent months have brought increased uncertainty, hampering business and consumer confidence.

A comprehensive analysis of international tourism trends will be included in the next full version of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. It is scheduled for release this October.


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By Michele Herrmann | September 7, 2011
International tourism had a healthy start for the first part of 2011, but its growth expected to soften due over time to economic uncertainty, according to the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).