Healthy Growth of International Tourism in First Half of 2011- UNWTO

Following the decline registered in 2009, one of the most challenging years for international tourism in decades, the sector rebounded strongly in 2010. International tourist arrivals were up 6.6% to 940 million and international tourism receipts grew by 4.7% in real terms to reach US$ 919 billion (euro 693 billion).

International tourism grew by almost 5% in the first half of 2011 totalling a new record of 440 million arrivals. Results confirm that, in spite of multiple challenges, international tourism continues to consolidate the return to growth initiated in 2010.

Advanced economies grow faster than expected

International tourist arrivals are estimated to have grown by 4.5% in the first half of 2011, consolidating the 6.6% increase registered in 2010. Between January and June of this year, the total number of arrivals reached 440 million, 19 million more than in the same period of 2010.

Growth in advanced economies (+4.3%) has maintained strength and is closing the gap with emerging economies (+4.8%), which have been driving international tourism growth in recent years. 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.

“The sustained growth registered in tourism demand in such challenging times clearly makes the case for the sector and reinforces our call 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,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.

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%), boosted by the recovery of Northern Europe (+7%) and Central and Eastern Europe (+9%), and the temporary redistribution of travel to destinations in Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+7%) due to developments in North Africa (-13%) and the Middle East (-11%). Sub-Saharan Africa (+9%) continued to perform soundly.

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

Results from recent months show that destinations such as Egypt, Tunisia or Japan are seeing declines in demand clearly reverting. “We are very encouraged to see demand picking up in such important tourism destinations and call for continued support to these countries which are today fully ready to receive travellers from all over the world,” added Mr. Rifai.

Continued growth and increasing uncertainty

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% to 5%, for the full year 2011, a rate slightly above the 4% long-term average.

As international tourism receipts were more affected by the 2008-2009 crisis and recovered somewhat slower than arrivals in 2010, this year should also see their further improvement.

Following an encouraging first half of 2011, growth in the remainder of the year is expected to soften somewhat as recent months have brought increased uncertainty, hampering business and consumer confidence.

“We must remain cautious as the global economy is showing signs of increased volatility,” said Mr. Rifai. “Many advanced economies still face risks posed by weak growth, fiscal problems and persistently high unemployment. Simultaneously, signs of overheating have become apparent in some emerging economies. Restoring sustained and balanced economic growth remains a major task”.

For the full report :

UNWTO World Tourism Barometer (Advance Release): International Tourism 2010: Multi-speed recovery

International tourism recovered strongly in 2010 according to the Advance Release of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. International tourist arrivals were up by almost 7% to 935 million, following the 4% decline in 2009 – the year hardest hit by the global economic crisis. The vast majority of destinations worldwide 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.

Multi-speed recovery for international tourism in 2010

Boosted by improved economic conditions worldwide, international tourism has recovered faster than expected from the impacts of the global financial crisis and economic recession of late 2008 and 2009. International tourist arrivals were up by 6.7% compared to 2009, with positive growth reported in all world regions. Worldwide, the number of international tourist arrivals reached 935 million, up 58 million from 2009 and 22 million more than the pre-crisis peak level of 2008 (913 million).

While all regions posted growth in international tourist arrivals, emerging economies remain the main drivers of this recovery. This multi-speed recovery, lower in advanced economies (+5%), faster in emerging ones (+8%), is a reflection of the broader global economic situation and is set to dominate 2011 and the foreseeable future.

“The recovery in international tourism is good news, especially for those developing countries that rely on the sector for much-needed revenue and jobs,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “The challenge now will be to consolidate this growth over the coming years amid a still uncertain global economic environment”.

Asia (+13%) was the first region to recover and the strongest growing region in 2010. International tourist arrivals into Asia 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. Results returned to double digits in theMiddle East (+14% to 60 million) where almost all destinations grew by 10% or more.

In 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, but this was not sufficient to bring overall results above the losses of 2009.

The 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%).

Subregional results clearly reflect this multi-speed recovery. A few subregions such as North and Sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia were not impacted by the global crisis and reported continuous growth throughout 2009 and 2010. Among the subregions affected by the crisis in 2009, North-East and South Asia, North and South America, and Western Europe saw growth in arrivals in 2010 fully compensate for previous losses and exceeding pre-crisis peak levels. The Caribbean and Central America are just back at 2008 levels, while in Central and Eastern Europe, and Southern and Mediterranean Europe growth was still insufficient to make up for the lost tourist flows of 2009. In contrast, Northern Europe did not return to positive growth in 2010.

Growth in international tourism receipts continued to lag somewhat behind that of arrivals during 2010, as is the trend during periods of recovery. 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 at 2% came from the USA, Germany and Italy. On the opposite side of the spectrum, expenditure abroad from the UK was still down by 4% in 2010.

2010 in review

International tourism demand held up well in 2010, despite persistent economic uncertainty in some major markets, the natural disasters suffered in some countries, political and social unrest in others, the serious disruption of air travel following a volcanic eruption in Iceland last April and the problematic weather conditions in parts of Europe and the USA in December.

“Tourism has once again proven to be a highly resilient sector. Nevertheless, we need to work closer and better towards increased integration and cooperation between all players involved in the tourism value chain to increase our competitiveness and respond more effectively to challenges such as the ones that emerged from the closure of European air space last April”, said Mr. Rifai.

2010 also saw the rise in importance of mega-events – sport, culture and exhibitions – in terms of their extraordinary ability to attract visitors and position host countries as attractive tourism destinations. Notable examples include the Winter Olympics in Canada, the Shanghai Expo in China, the FIFA World Cup in South Africa and the Commonwealth Games in India.

Confirming these trends, the over 300 experts from around the globe who constitute the UNWTO Panel of Experts evaluated 2010’s overall performance very positively and much above their expectations at the beginning of the year. The Panel maintained this positive outlook for 2011.

Growth to continue in 2011

Following a year of global recovery in 2010, growth is expected to continue for the tourism sector in 2011 but at a slower pace. UNWTO forecasts international tourist arrivals to grow at between 4% to 5% in 2011, a rate slightly above the long-term average.

Persistent high unemployment remains a major concern, with the gradual recovery in employment expected for 2011 still too weak to compensate for the jobs lost during the economic crisis.

The recent tendency towards introducing and increasing taxation on travel as a means of balancing public accounts represents a further challenge to the sector. “While we fully understand the need for fiscal consolidation, UNWTO will continue to alert governments to the fact that these taxes seriously affect tourism’s proven capacity to stimulate job creation and economic growth, impacting negatively on their own economies and on the development possibilities of emerging economies,” said Mr. Rifai.

Relevant links:

More information on 2010 International Tourism Results and Prospects for 2011

UNWTO Tourism Highlights


Principal Media Officer: Marcelo Risi
Tel: (+34) 91 567 81 60 –

UNWTO Communications Programme
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Fax: +34 91-567-8218

UNWTO World Tourism Barometer – Interim Update

International Tourist Arrivals 2010

• After an exceptionally challenging 2009, international tourism demand is steadily regaining momentum. Preliminary figures compiled by UNWTO for the first months of 2010 indicate an intensifying of the upward trend experienced since the last quarter of 2009, when international tourist arrivals increased by 2% after 14 months of negative results.

• Of the 77 countries that have so far reported international arrivals data for one or more months of the first quarter of 2010, 17 are still negative, while 60 show positive figures, of which 24 double-digit. Based on this crosscut of destinations, arrivals growth worldwide in the months of January-February is estimated at 7%. Some 29 countries already reported March data, all of them positive, clearly pointing to a continuation of the current pace of growth.

• January and February are important months for leisure tourism in the summer of the Southern hemisphere and in the Northern Hemisphere for winter sports tourism destinations. On average the two months represent around 13% of the yearly total. In 2010, international tourist arrivals in January and February totalled over 119 million. Of course this year’s results compare to very poor first months of 2009 –the worst part of the crisis– when international arrivals declined at a rate of -9% and with only 112 million arrivals the number fell below the level of 2007. Compared to the record year 2008, with 123 million arrivals in January and February, the current volume is still 2% short.

• Growth has been positive in all world regions, led by Asia and the Pacific (+10%). The three countries of the Middle East that have reported results so far also point to strong growth, though, compared to very subdued first months of 2009. By subregion, South Asia (+15%), South-East Asia (+10%), North-East Asia (+10%) and North Africa (+8%) did better than the world average, while growth is still weaker in Europe and Americas (both at +3%).

• Quite a few countries posted double-digit growth in the first months of 2010, i.e. Estonia (+14%), Israel (+37%), Hong Kong (China) (+14%), Macao (China) (+16%), Japan (+29%), Taiwan (pr. of China) (+28%), Indonesia (+14%), Singapore (+21%), Vietnam (+36%), Guam (+10%), India (+13%), Nepal (+30%), Sri Lanka (+50%), US Virgin Islands (+15%), Nicaragua (+16%), Ecuador (+14%), Kenya  (+18%), Seychelles (+16%), Morocco (+14%), Egypt (+29%) and Saudi Arabia (+45%).

Excerpt (first 8 pages)
Full 20 pages document available through UNWTO e-library
News release: International Tourism: First Results of 2010 confirm Upward Trend
Comunicado de prensa: Turismo internacional: los primeros resultados de 2010 confirman la tendencia al alza
Communiqué de presse: Tourisme international: Les premiers résultats de 2010 confirment une tendance à la hausse