International tourist arrivals are on track to reach the record 1 billion mark during 2012, even though tourism growth will slow slightly this year for a variety of reasons, the United Nations World Tourism Organization announced Monday.
“We forecast tourism arrivals to increase by between 3% and 4%, compared to last year’s 4.4% growth,” UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said during a news conference at the organization’s headquarters in Madrid.
During 2011, there were 980 million international arrivals for tourism, business and other travel, up from 939 million the year before, writes Benjamin Jones, HotelNewsNow.com correspondent.
Rifai identified six factors that could have a negative impact on the global tourism industry during 2012:
• weak economic recovery;
• credit restrictions affecting investment;
• lower consumer and business confidence;
• austerity measures in Europe and North America;
• unemployment; and
• geopolitical disturbances.
On the positive side, he said the UNWTO expected major world events such as the 2012 Olympic Games in London and the European soccer championships in Poland and Ukraine to generate significant travel.
Travel exports were up 13.5% through the first 11 months of 2011 compared to 2010 and totaled US$139.4 billion, said David Huether, senior VP of economics and research at the U.S. Travel Association, in a news release.
"While travel exports softened a bit in the past several months, foreign visitors to the U.S. gave our economy an overall shot in the arm in 2011,” he said. “With travel imports totaling US$101 billion through November, the travel trade surplus in 2011 has so far increased to US$38.4 billion, which is up 33% from the US$28.8 billion surplus through the first 11 months of 2010.”
Huether said travel and tourism exports decreased by US$283 million to US$12.7 billion in November after increasing seven of the prior eight months. Meanwhile, imports of travel and tourism also edged down in November to US$9.2 billion. The drop in November travel exports was mirrored by declines in other major export categories, such as agricultural products, industrial supplies and capital goods.
"While many associate U.S. exports with agricultural or industrial products shipped abroad, the fact is that international visitation to the U.S. is a major source of exports. In fact, year-to-date 2011 travel and tourism exports surpassed agricultural exports as well as exports of civilian aircraft, semiconductors, telecommunications equipment and computers combined,” Huether said.
“Clearly, travel is the unsung hero of the current export recovery that has been one of the few bright spots in this fledgling recovery,” he said.
China's gross domestic product growth slowed to 8.9% during the fourth quarter of 2011, compared with a year earlier, and a report in the Wall Street Journal said that slowdown shows the world's fastest engine of growth is downshifting.
While China's fourth-quarter performance surprised analysts who expected a sharper decline, it is still modest by the measure of the past 30 years. China's GDP has soared by an average of 10% a year during that period, the newspaper reports.
The global economy increasingly depends on China for growth. An expanding Chinese economy creates demand for commodities from many developing countries and for industrial products and services from wealthy ones.
One of China's major weaknesses is its property market, the WSJ reports. Beijing has been trying to rein in prices by making it more difficult for developers to finance luxury apartments and making it harder for investors to buy them by requiring down payments of as much as 60%, among other measures. Almost two years of such controls on the property sector has put a serious dent in sales, and developers are starting to go slow on new projects.
Atmosphere Research Group—an independent, privately-held research and advisory firm—outlined three factors that will define 2012 for travel sellers in its Outlook for US Leisure Travel in 2012.
• Uncertainty. On 13 January, Standard & Poor’s downgraded nine European countries’ debt ratings. This economic instability will, in Atmosphere’s opinion, define much of this year, forcing travel sellers to navigate various economies and customer bases in flux.
• Fragmentation. Last week’s launch of Room Key, a hotel-owned metasearch site, illustrates the growing number of resources available to travelers to plan and book their trips. It reinforces why Atmosphere believes distribution fragmentation will be a key theme for this year.
• Immediacy. It is a nation of travelers constantly in touch with one another, with the ability to be constantly in touch with travel sellers, and—like it or not—bearing an expectation that your company will respond to their queries immediately, as well. Atmosphere expects mobile commerce in travel will become real this year.
If visitors to hotel websites are receiving stale information from random search engines, Google's new “Freshness Update” (which affects how the popular search engine brings up results for searches) might be your hotel's new best friend. Lodging Interactive, a social-media marketing agency servicing the hospitality industry, offers four strategies hotels can incorporate into their online marketing plan that will make it easier to obtain or maintain a high Google status:
• Publish more press releases. Keep visitors informed of the latest happenings within your hotel.
• Create a blog for your website. Display information on a host of different topics that are fun and interesting for people to read.
• Become familiar with popular social media. It's important to use top social-media sites such as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter to market your hotel.
• Get picked-up by Google News. This can have a huge impact on your ranking in Google.
Compiled by Jason Q. Freed.