Global tourism soared to a record performance in 2007, led by emerging markets, and the outlook remains good despite financial crises and high oil prices, the UN World Tourism Organisation said Tuesday in Madrid.
"The year 2007 exceeded expectations for international tourism with arrivals reaching new record figures" of 898 million, up 52 million, equivalent to 6.2% over 2006 said WTO which underlined that the strong performance was based on the sustained economic growth of recent years and the sector's resilience to external factors. Of the additional 52 million worldwide arrivals, Europe received some 19 million and Asia and the Pacific 17 million. The Americas was up by around six million, Africa by three million and the Middle East by five million. The Middle East recorded the largest percentage increase, surging 13% to 46 million arrivals, followed by the Asia-Pacific region, with 10%, Africa 8%, the Americas 5% and Europe 4%, according to the UNWTO annual report. "Economic and tourism growth are driven by emerging markets and developing economies," said UNWTO Secretary General Francesco Frangialli. He added that while mature markets remain the leading destinations in the world, "the faster growth rate of new markets confirms the UNWTO main message of tourism's potential for the developing world." Middle East "continues to be one of tourism success stories of the decade so far, despite ongoing tensions and threats" stated UNWTO adding that "the region is emerging as a strong destination with visitor numbers climbing much faster than the world total; Saudi Arabia and Egypt are among the leading destinations in growth in 2007". The Americas region regained vigor and more than doubled its growth rate after the 2% growth of 2006. Backed by the rebound of the US inbound market (+10%) and the strong performance of Central and South American destinations which were favored by the strong Euro and a steady tourism flows from the USA. The world's largest destination region with a share of over 50% of all international tourist arrivals, Europe is growing above average and totaled 480 million tourists in 2007. Destinations like Turkey (+18%), Greece (+12%) and Portugal (+10%) or Italy and Switzerland (both at +7%) are proof of the positive impact of the continued economic pick-up of the region in 2007. The organization said that confidence for 2008 also remains high, although this perception could change in the event of a deep recession in United States which would then push global tourism to negative growth. "We are cautiously optimistic for 2008, which will see growth but probably not as high as in 2007," said Frangialli. The UNWTO report said economies worldwide "have shown increased volatility and confidence has weakened in some markets due to uncertainty about the subprime mortgage crises and economic prospects, in particular for the US, alongside global imbalances and high oil prices". "International tourism might be affected by this global context. But based on past experience, the sector's proven resilience and given the current parameters, UNWTO does not expect that growth will come to a halt", underlined Frangialli.