2010 Shows Promising Growth in Tourism

According to the UNWTO Interim Update presented at 4th UNWTO/PATA Forum on Tourism Trends and Outlook in Guilin, China, the number of international tourist arrivals has grown 7% in the first half of 2010 with a total of 421 million people, an indication of recovery in the tourist industry. Despite events such as the shutdown of European airspace from Iceland's volcanic eruption in April, the months following have shown positive results, leading to a forecast of continued steady growth.

As a matter of fact, all regions of the world have also shown positive growth. Emerging economies had an eight percent increase in tourism, while advance economies grew by six percent. The greatest growth is in Middle East (20%) and Asia and the Pacific (14%), where many of their tourist attractions grew in double digits.

Tourism was particularly strong in the following Asia destinations: Sri Lanka (+49%), Japan (+36%), Vietnam (+35%), Myanmar (+35%), Hong Kong (China) (+23%), Macao (China) (+23%), Singapore (+23%), Fiji (+22%) and the Maldives (+21%). Even Thailand experienced a 14% growth despite political instability in the beginning of the year. Regardless of the circumstances, Asia has made significant rebounds and international tourism has helped push its economy forward. Currently, Asia is the second most visited region in the world, with 181 million tourists each year and revenues of $204 billion in 2009.

As for the other regions, Central America, South America and North America also experienced growth (7%). The Caribbean is doing better than the last two years, but growth has been rather slow. Europe shows the least amount of growth at two percent, with Western and South Mediterranean areas doing better than the Northern parts. Tourism in Africa has also grown 7% with a rather positive outlook in the near future.

Even though the number of tourists has increased to various regions, the amount of capital generated by tourism is still behind. Especially in an economic downturn, people travel closer to home and spend less on vacations. The increase in numbers also helps drive prices down and spur competition.

However, it is important to note that this growth is based on the results from 2009, which had a significant decline in tourists (-4.2%) and receipts (-5.7%). Unemployment, as well as an increase in taxation in the U.S. and Europe will also impact tourism growth.

It also appears that domestic tourism seems to be the growing trend as a result of the economic downturn. Four out of five travelers going to a destination originate from the same region. It is important not to overlook the potential of domestic tourism as a major economic force. China is one of the countries that has been successful at promoting domestic tourism. Holding special events is also a way to promote domestic traveling, such as FIFA World Cup and the Shanghai Expo.