UNWTO forecasts tourism growth to continue
22 JANUARY 2014 7:19 AM
Many regions experienced tourism growth last year, and the UNWTO predicts that growth will continue into 2014.
MADRID—International tourism performance exceeded expectations last year with arrivals increasing by 5% and forecasts calling for the good news to continue in 2014, the United Nations World Tourism Organization announced on Monday.
International arrivals were up by 52 million to a record 1.08 billion in 2013, with the Asia/Pacific region and Africa as the growth leaders, followed closely by Europe and the Americas.
“It was a remarkable year for tourism growth despite challenges to the sector, both natural and man-made,” UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai told a news conference, where the results were released.
A year ago, the Madrid-based organization predicted growth of between 3% and 4% for 2013, and Rifai praised the tourism industry for its “capacity to adjust to changing market conditions” in the face of lingering economic and geopolitical difficulties.
“Indeed, tourism has been among the few sectors generating positive news for many economies,” he said.
Globally, growth was strongest in the Asia/Pacific region, with the number of arrivals increasing by 14 million to a total of 248 million, up 6% over 2012.
That percentage was matched by Africa, which welcomed an additional 3 million tourists to a record 56 million, aided by recovery in North Africa and sub-Saharan destinations, according to the UNWTO figures.
“But Europe led the growth in absolute terms, with an additional 29 million arrivals for a total of 563 million travelers,” Rifai said, noting that the 5% growth was above expectations and double the region’s average rate of 2.5% from 2005 to 2012.
“We are seeing the economic situation having a continuing impact as it appears Europeans are staying closer to home and taking shorter trips,” Rifai said.
Tourism performance, as measured by cross-border arrivals, gained 4% in the Americas, an increase of 6 million visitors. The leading growth destinations were North America and Central America (+4% each), while South America (+2%) and the Caribbean (+1%) had slowed compared to the previous year.
Rifai described the Middle East as “mixed,” with flat growth at 52 million arrivals due to the fallout from political unrest in some key destinations. “Syria, Jordan and Egypt have lost ground while there were gains in the Gulf states,” he said.
China leads expenditure
Among source markets, China maintained its leadership position as the largest outbound generator first achieved in 2012, posting a 28% increase in expenditures in the first nine months of last year.
Russia, ranked as the fifth largest outbound market, reported 26% growth in tourism expenditures through September, while the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia registered 3% growth.
Other advanced economy source markets, such as Japan, Italy and Germany, all experienced declines in outbound expenditures.
Looking ahead, Rifai said the UNWTO panel of 300 worldwide experts predicted an increase of between 4% and 4.5% this year, with regional prospects brightest for the Asia/Pacific region (+5% to +6%) and Africa (+4% to +6%).
International tourism arrivals in Europe and the Americas were expected to grow by 3% to 4%. The Middle East is the most volatile and unpredictable region, with a growth range of flat to 5%.
“Last year’s positive results and the expected global economic improvement in 2014 set the scene for another positive year for international tourism,” Rifai said.
“The only concerns I have for this year are those issues in which we hope to see improvement, especially restrictive visa procedures, air connectivity and taxes,” he added.
“This year’s prospects for the hospitality industry should follow the overall, generally upbeat trends,” said John Kester, manager of the UNWTO tourism trends and marketing strategies program.