Worldwide tourism results for 2005 show a continuation of the overall positive trend of 2004, with international tourist arrivals growing on average by eight per cent in the first four months, according to the recently released June edition of the WTO World Tourism Barometer.
Although the excellent pace of growth of 2004 was expected to slow down gradually, for the moment rates are very similar to those seen in the second half of 2004, a year in which international tourist arrivals grew by more than 10% to an all-time record of 763 million.
The first few months thus indicate that 2005 is shaping up as a year of continued recovery from the various shocks felt in the 2001-2003 period. Pent-up demand continues to be released as consumer confidence is on the upswing again and the fear factor has faded.
A factor that should not be overlooked in this recovery is the stimulating effect of “tempting” offers made available by online travel services including low-cost airlines. Positive results are estimated over the first four months of 2005 for all regions, ranging from 5% for Europe to 17% for the Middle East.
The WTO World Tourism Barometer said that Europe (+5%), which weathered the 2001-2003 downturn rather well, maintained last year’s positive trend.
For January 2005, growth of worldwide international tourist arrivals is estimated at 9% compared with the same month of the previous year.
In February, arrivals increased by 4%, but it should be taken into account that 2004 was a leap year and February had one day more, representing some 3% to 4% of the monthly total.
In March, arrivals jumped by 15% boosted by the fact that the Easter holidays fell in March this year and not in April as in 2004. By the same token, this skewed down the April results, which, however, were still positive at 3%. For the four-month period January-April 2005 as a whole, growth amounted to close to 8 per cent.
This figure is in line with the forecast issued in the January issue of the WTO World Tourism Barometer of a 5 to 8% increase for the full year 2005.
Prospects for the high season in the northern hemisphere are positive overall, as no major constraints are present and the economic scenario is on the whole favourable as there is still a significant amount of pending demand, in particular concerning long-haul traffic.
Short-term prospects are particularly positive regarding travel out of Europe due to the still strong euro.
In addition, with more and more intra-regional destinations served by low-cost airlines, tour operators are moving to more exotic medium- and long-haul destinations.
However, independent travel continues to develop faster than conventional package travel fuelled by increased capacity from low-cost airlines and growing online availability of well-priced accommodation.
However, travelers from the Americas are only slowly returning to Europe and are expected to continue being more attracted to destinations within their own region or in Asia and the Pacific, where the impact of the weak U.S. dollar is less significant.
The over 230 specialists from around 100 countries and territories who contributed to the WTO Panel of Tourism Experts for this edition of the WTO World Tourism Barometer maintained their positive evaluation regarding the first four months of 2005 as well as for the May-August period.