Tourism industry growing despite global economic slowdown

October 22nd, 2008 - 4:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Manila, Oct 22 (Xinhua) Tourism is continuing to grow globally, at a slower pace though, amid the global economic slowdown, media report said Wednesday. Francesco Frangialli, secretary general of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), attributed the growth to people’s lifestyle, Philippine newspaper Businessworld reported.

“The access to holidays and leisure of the middle class and families of young entrepreneurs from the emerging countries of Asia and the high propensity to travel of the retired baby boomers (people born immediately after World War II) of Europe and North America, are the two powerful engines that are today impelling world tourism,” Frangialli told a conference of travel agents from all over the world.

“With regular inputs from these two sources, increases in arrivals of some four percent a year should become the norm,” he added.

“In the developed world, consumers consider going on a holiday a vital part of their lives. They want to preserve this although they might be looking for cheaper airfares or accommodation. They might even postpone it, but when there’s a window, they’ll do it,” he said.

International tourist arrivals grew by an average of seven percent a year in the last four years. Last year, arrivals increased by 6.6 percent to 903 million and international tourism receipts grew 5.6 percent to $856 billion, according to the report.

As of August this year, arrivals were up by 3.8 percent, Frangialli said.

This is less than the growth last year, “but still the current figure is not bad. Growth should not be negative this year,” said the tourism expert.

The UNWTO, in its World Tourism Barometer, said international tourism was expected to grow by three to four percent this year.

“On the whole, while consumer confidence indices show an increasing degree of uncertainty, international tourism has proven to be resilient in similar circumstances in the past and able to cope with various types of shocks including security threats, geopolitical tensions or natural and man-made crises,” according to the World Tourism Barometer.

Globally, France remained the top tourist destination last year, followed by Spain and the United States.

But Frangialli said Asian countries led by China could move faster this year. Asia was the second most-visited region in 2004 and accounted for 27 percent of global tourism in terms of arrivals and receipts.

He said that intra-Asian travel, especially in the eastern part of the continent, had remained strong and that the region was not affected as much as the West by the global financial crisis.

Last year, 40 million Chinese, 70 million Japanese, and 6 million Koreans travelled across Asia, which is “a major phenomenon”, he said.

China, which alternates with Italy as the fourth and fifth top tourist destination globally, has moved up to the fifth place in terms of tourism spending as of last year. The United States, Spain, France and Germany held the top four spots.

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