At the General Assembly currently being held in Kazakhstan, the UNWTO issued its latest forecast based on data accumulated up until July, 2009. Forecasts are based on international tourism arrivals, and show a gain of 1 point, however, this still leaves arrivals in the negative.
Arrivals were at -8 percent in May of this year as compared to 2008, and 2 months later in July that number has gone to -7 percent. It is anticipated that August may only slightly improve this forecast.
Taleb Rifai, UNWTO secretary general stated: “This is not any news to cheer about, but it is definitely significant for us to sense some kind of flattening to the crisis we are in. Our panel of experts has forecasted a slight improvement in the negative trend, and we expect to close the year 2009 at an average of -5 percent, which is another 2 points gained between now and the end of the year.”
On a regional level, Europe was the hardest hit in terms of rates of growth in tourism arrivals. At the end of July, Europe’s growth was at -8 percent as compared to the global average of -7 percent. Asia-Pacific experienced arrivals slightly better than the global average. The Americas were more or less at the global average. The Middle East produced mixed results, mainly due to the results of the 2 most significant countries – Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Africa is the only region that showed a solid growth of +4 percent with Guinea, South Africa, and Swaziland doing particularly well.
Although the summer in the northern part of the hemisphere has seen vibrant activities in many of the hard-hit countries, it is still too soon to tell what effect this will have on the tourism industry.
Taleb stated, “While it is not business as usual, life must go on, and services must continue to be provided.”