International tourist arrivalsseen to grow 3 to 4 % this year – UNWTO

Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star) - January 24, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The number of international tourists is projected to grow by three to four percent this year as the industry sees a cautious but optimistic outlook, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said.

“Looking ahead, growth of three to four percent is predicted for 2020, an outlook reflected in the latest UNWTO Confidence Index which shows a cautious optimism: 47 percent of participants believe tourism will perform better and 43 percent at the same level of 2019,” UNWTO said.

“Major sporting events, including the Tokyo Olympics, and cultural events such as Expo 2020 Dubai are expected to have a positive impact on the sector,” it added.

In contrast, Brexit’s impact on Europe as well as current trade and geopolitical tensions are factors that could dampen the positive outlook for this year.

“As in previous occasions, external shocks happening in specific countries may lead to a redistribution of travel to other destinations,” UNWTO said.

“In a more favorable scenario, the Brexit transition, the first phase of the US-China trade deal and the gradual improvement of the social environment could give clearer signs to the economy as tensions unwind,” it added.

According to the latest edition of its World Tourism Barometer, UNWTO reported that tourist arrivals to worldwide destinations grew four percent in 2019 to 1.5 billion, meeting the UNWTO’s three to four percent target growth for the year.

“A four percent increase on the previous year which is also forecast for 2020, confirming tourism as a leading and resilient economic sector, especially in view of current uncertainties. By the same token, this calls for such growth to be managed responsibly so as to best seize the opportunities tourism can generate for communities around the world,” the UNWTO said.

It added that the increase in 2019 represents the 10th consecutive year of growth of international tourist arrivals.

“All regions saw a rise in international arrivals in 2019. However, uncertainty surrounding Brexit, the collapse of Thomas Cook, geopolitical and social tensions and the global economic slowdown all contributed to a slower growth in 2019, when compared to the exceptional rates of 2017 and 2018,” UNWTO said adding, that this slowdown affected mainly advanced economies, particularly Europe and Asia and the Pacific.

The Middle East has emerged as the fastest-growing region for international tourism arrivals in 2019, growing at almost double the global average at eight percent.

Growth in Asia and the Pacific slowed down but still showed above-average growth, with international arrivals up five percent.

Europe also saw slower than usual growth at four percent, but continues to lead in terms of international arrivals numbers, welcoming 743 million international tourists last year (51 percent of the global market).

The Americas, on the other hand, grew two percent, as many island destinations in the Caribbean consolidated their recovery after the 2017 hurricanes while arrivals fell in South America due partly to ongoing social and political turmoil.

In addition, limited data available for Africa points to continued strong results in North Africa, with a nine percent growth, while arrivals in Sub-Saharan Africa grew slower in 2019 at 1.5 percent growth.

“In these times of uncertainty and volatility, tourism remains a reliable economic sector,” UNWTO secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili

“Our sector keeps outpacing the world economy and calling upon us to not only grow but to grow better,” he added.

Pololikashvili emphasized that the number of destinations earning $1 billion or more from international tourism has almost doubled since 1998.

“The challenge we face is to make sure the benefits are shared as widely as possible and that nobody is left behind. In 2020, UNWTO celebrates the Year of Tourism and Rural Development, and we hope to see our sector lead positive change in rural communities, creating jobs and opportunities, driving economic growth and preserving culture,” he added.

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