World tourism to rebound from crisis in 2010: UNWTO

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MADRID: International tourist arrivals should recover strongly in 2010 after the global crisis and the swine flu pandemic produced one of the most difficult years for the sector, the UN World Tourism Organization said Monday.

World tourism fell by an estimated 4 percent in 2009 but should rebound by 3 to 4 percent in 2010, it said in its annual World Tourism Barometer.

Growth returned in the last quarter of 2009 contributing to better than expected full-year results.

2009 was one of the most difficult years that tourism has seen in recent times.., UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai told a news conference.

He cited the global economic crisis aggravated by the uncertainty around the A(H1N1) pandemic.

Yet, we are optimistic that the recovery is underway… The trend is bottoming out.

It said the 2010 growth outlook was confirmed by the remarkable rise of the WNWTO Panel of Experts Confidence index, it said.

The results of recent months suggest that recovery is underway, and even somewhat earlier and at a stronger pace than initially expected, said Rifai.

But he said 2010 would still be a demanding year.

Many countries were quick in reacting to the crisis and actively implemented measures to mitigate its impact and stimulate recovery.

Although we expect growth to return in 2010, a premature withdrawal of these stimulus measures and the temptation to impose extra taxes may jeopardize the pace of rebound in tourism, he said.

He noted significant growth in domestic tourism, particularly in some large countries such as China, Brazil and Spain, as a result of the crisis.

On a regional basis, he said, Europe and North America are lagging, Asia and the Middle East are pushing ahead.

Europe ended 2009 down 6 percent after a very complicated first half, with destinations in central, eastern and northern Europe particularly badly hit, the report said.

But Asia and the Pacific, where tourism was down 2 percent, showed an extraordinary rebound.

While arrivals in that region declined by 7 percent between January and June, the second half of 2009 saw 3 percent growth reflecting regional economic results and prospects.

Arrivals were down 6 percent in the Middle East. But the region, though still far from the growth levels of previous years, had a positive second half.

It said Africa bucked the trend with growth of 5 percent.

In the Americas, where arrivals were down 5 percent, the Caribbean returned to growth in the last four months of 2009.

The performance was more sluggish in the other sub-regions, with the A(H1N1) influenza outbreak exacerbating the impact of the economic crisis, the report found. -AFP

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