2010 a strong year for global tourism, U.N. agency says

January 17th, 2011 by Mariah

Madrid, Spain (CNN) — Global tourism “recovered strongly” in 2010, spurred by emerging economies in Asia, the Middle East and the Americas, for an overall increase of 6.7 percent, to 935 million international tourist arrivals, the U.N. World Tourism Organization said Monday.

All regions had increased tourist arrivals in 2010 after the 4 percent global decline in tourism in 2009, but Europe and Africa grew more slowly, the Madrid-based UNWTO said in a statement.

“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 Taleb Rifai, UNWTO secretary-general. “The challenge now will be to consolidate this growth over the coming years amid a still uncertain global economic environment”.

Asia was the first region to recover and the strongest growing region in 2010, with a 13 percent increase. International tourist arrivals into Asia reached a new record at 204 million last year, up from 181 million in 2009. The Middle East registered a 14 percent increase, to 60 million tourist arrivals, the UNWTO said.

The Americas overall grew by 8 percent, to 151 million international tourist arrivals. Growth was strongest in South America but the improving U.S. economy also helped improve the region’s results.

Africa grew by 6 percent in 2010, to 49 million tourist arrivals, helped by such events as the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. In 2009, it was only region in the world not to have a decline in international tourism, the UNWTO said.

Europe, the world’s top destination for international tourism, with 471 million arrivals, grew just 3 percent in 2010, in part due to air traffic disruptions caused by ash from a volcanic eruption in Iceland and “the economic uncertainty affecting the euro zone,” the UNWTO said.

UNWTO forecast continued tourism sector growth this year but at a slower pace, for a 4 percent to 5 percent increase in 2011, which is slightly above the long-term average.

The slower growth predicted in 2011 is due in part to “persistent high unemployment ” in parts of the world, and recent moves by various governments to introduce or increase “taxation on travel as a means of balancing public accounts,” the UNWTO said.