Africa trumps others in tourism growth stakes


According to the June edition of the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) World Tourism Barometer, international tourism declined by 8 percent between January and April compared with the same period last year. 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 fall by between 6 percent and 4 percent in 2009, as the pace of decline is expected to ease during the remainder of this year.

With the exception of Africa, all regions recorded a decrease in arrivals for the first four months of 2009. The positive results in Africa (+3 percent) reflect the strength of North African destinations around the Mediterranean and the recovery of Kenya as one of leading sub-Saharan destinations, said the organization.

In Europe (-10 percent), the impact was high, as the majority of source markets have struggled with 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 (-5 percent) have suffered due to the slowdown of the USA both as a source market and a destination. Still, South America was the only sub-region outside Africa to buck the general downward trend, registering +0,2 percent.

Challenging conditions
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 over 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.

Taking account of the results for the first four months of the year and the current conditions, worldwide growth in international tourist arrivals is expected to end up between -6 percent and -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 at between -6 percent and -4 percent, and September-December between -5 percent and -3 percent.