Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold said the latest international tourism statistics show that international tourism is steadily gaining momentum, following an extremely challenging 2009. She said according to information just released by the UNWTO (United Nations World Trade Organization) World Tourism Barometer, international arrivals have grown by 7 percent in the first two months of this year.
The highly-respected Barometer found that growth was particularly strong in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. UNWTO now forecasts international tourist arrivals to grow by 3 to 4 percent in 2010.
“These results are very encouraging and bode well for Cape Town Tourism in the year ahead,” said du Toit-Helmbold. “They show that there is, indeed, light at the end of the tunnel, as far as the global recession is concerned, and we can now expect a better year for tourism in Cape Town,” she added.
According to the April Interim Update of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourist arrivals are estimated to have increased by 7 percent in the first two months of 2010. This follows the upturn already registered in the last quarter of 2009 when arrivals grew by 2 percent after 14 consecutive months of negative results. Though data for March is still limited, countries with data already reported confirm that this positive trend is set to continue.
Growth was positive in all world regions during the first two months of 2010 led by Asia and the Pacific (+10 percent) and Africa (+7 percent). Information for the three countries of the Middle East that have reported results so far also point to a strong rebound in the region, though, compared to very subdued first months of 2009. The pace of growth was slower in Europe (+3 percent) and in the Americas (+3 percent), the two regions hardest hit by the global crisis and where economic recovery is proving to be comparatively weaker.
Du Toit-Helmbold said the fact that Cape Town is playing such a significant part in South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup should boost figures going forward.
“Although the tourism industry will remain under significant pressure for some time to come, the figures from UNWTO are very heartening indeed,” she said. “We can expect a gradual improvement towards 2011, and couple this to the fact that the World Cup is just around the corner, and South Africa will be showcased to an international audience, there is plenty of room for optimism.”
A large number of countries around the world reported positive results in the first months of 2010. Of the 77 destinations reporting data for this period, 60 showed positive figures, of which 24 posted double-digit growth including Estonia, Israel, Hong Kong (China), Macao (China), Japan, Taiwan (pr. of China), Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Guam, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, US Virgin Islands, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Kenya, Seychelles, Morocco, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
Though there is a clear improvement on the negative results of 2009, this growth must be considered with caution as it compares with a particularly weak period of 2009 – the worst months of the global economic crisis. On the whole, international tourist arrivals totalled 119 million during the first two months of 2010, up 7 percent on 2009 but still 2 percent below the value of the record year of 2008.
UNWTO forecasts international tourist arrivals to grow by 3 to 4 percent in 2010.
This outlook has not been altered by the recent air traffic disruption in European airspace. Although impacting very seriously on travelers, specific destinations and companies, in particular airlines, airports, and tour operators, UNWTO estimates that the closure of a major part of European airspace between April 15-20 might have caused a loss of less than half a percent of the yearly volume of international tourist arrivals in Europe and 0.3 percent of the total count for the world.
Nevertheless, while the positive trend registered in the first months of 2010 reflects improved economic conditions, UNWTO warns that many challenges remain.
“Although economic results have improved significantly in recent months with a positive impact on tourism demand we must remain cautious as many factors can still jeopardize the pace of recovery”, said UNWTO secretary-general, Taleb Rifai in Sofia, Bulgaria, at the opening of the UNWTO Seminar on Tourism Governance In Times Of Crisis: Conjunctural and Structural Policies. “The economic recovery is being driven mainly by emerging economies, while growth is still sluggish in most advanced ones. At the same time, increasing unemployment levels in major tourism source markets is a cause of concern,” he added.
In 2009, international tourism receipts are estimated to have reached US$852 billion worldwide (€611 billion), down from US$942 billion (€641 billion) in the previous year. In real terms (adjusted for exchange rate fluctuations and inflation), international tourism receipts decreased by 6 percent as compared to a 4 percent decline in arrivals, showing the close relation between both indicators. Experience suggests that in times of crisis revenues tend to be more affected than arrivals as was the case for the year 2009.
The top 10 ranking by international tourism spenders shows one noticeable change in 2009 with China overtaking France to take fourth position in the ranking of international tourism spenders. Chinese expenditure on international tourism has been the fastest to grow in the last decade, up from seventh position only in 2005. Even during last year’s crisis, tourism expenditure by China increased by 21 percent.
There were no major changes in the rankings of the first ten destinations by international tourist arrivals and receipts in 2009. France, the USA, and Spain continue to be leaders in both arrivals and receipts, albeit in a different order. France continues to lead the ranking of the world’s major tourism destinations in terms of arrivals and ranks third in receipts. The USA ranks first in receipts and second in arrivals. Spain maintains its position as the second biggest earner worldwide and the first in Europe, and ranks third in arrivals. In 2009, both Turkey and Germany climbed one position in the ranking of arrivals to seventh and eighth places, respectively. In arrivals, Malaysia entered the top ten in 2009 at ninth place.
Excerpt of the Interim Update of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer: www.unwto.org/facts/eng/barometer.htm
UNWTO’s Roadmap for Recovery: www.unwto.org/trc