Is World Tourism Set to Rebound?

After a dismal 2009, United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) predictions indicate a potential up-tick in world tourism for 2010 and 2011. Data for the last quarter of 2009 indicate that world tourism increased significantly over the first three quarters, coinciding with the improving economic conditions noted during the same period. The upward trend is notable, as the three preceding quarters witnessed a shrinkage of up to 12 percent.

With the improved economic indicators present in the last quarter, world tourism also improved proportionately. While the United States and European figures lagged behind those of Asian nations, the results are encouraging. UNWTO Secretary General Taled Rifai suggested the improvement in statistics demonstrates "that recovery is underway, and even somewhat earlier and at a stronger pace than initially expected." Given the difficult economic conditions present during the period, that trend demonstrates a certain ability of the tourism industry to rebound even under unusually pressing conditions.

It is notable that while international tourism did decline during the world-wide economic downturn, tourists did continue to travel, albeit closer to home. The resulting economic benefits of local tourism did tend to help in offsetting the loss in revenues posted due to the decline in international travel.

Throughout Europe a net loss of approximately six percent capped a bleak year, with some areas of Southern Europe faring slightly better than Northern European nations. In the Americas, the Caribbean region posted gains in the last quarter that served to boost earlier losses. Asian nations, predictably (based on economic statistics), saw an unusually high percentage of growth during the last quarter. Other countries experienced some growth later in the year, with indications for improved growth during 2010 being anticipated as long as economic conditions did not deteriorate further.

While growth for 2010 is not expected to show a great deal of growth, improvements in the overall financial conditions indicate a potential for at least three or four percent growth in international tourism for the year. While economic conditions remain somewhat stagnant in many portions of the world, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is reporting that many nations are seeing economic growth figures expanding at a rate faster than anticipated. This may indicate a more broad-reaching improvement for 2010 than most experts had anticipated.

While final figures for 2010 are not yet in, the optimistic predictions of industry insiders may prove to be accurate, as growth patterns around the world appear to be close to those predicted early in the year. While unemployment continues to be a concern, business and consumer confidence continues to improve, even in the face of sluggish growth in new employment. Further, interest rates and inflation continue to remain negligible factors. While the unemployment rate continues to be a mitigating factor, the over-all feeling toward positive growth continues.

While the world tourism industry is far from being secure, it is poised to contribute to an improvement in the economies of countries around the world. Even though the stimulus strategies initiated by numerous countries are set to expire, there are factors that may well help to boost world tourism in the coming months. Perhaps the most important consideration is the pent up demand for leisure activities that, as a rule, follows negative economic periods. Indeed, the outlook for world tourism is, when all factors are considered, positive in nature.