An estimated 460 million international tourist arrivals were recorded worldwide in the first seven months of 2005. This represents an increase of some 25 million arrivals compared with the respective period of 2004, or 5.9% growth, according to the preliminary data gathered for the new issue of the WTO World Tourism Barometer, which was presented during the first day of the recent WTO international conference on the Tourism Satellite Account in the Iguazu region.
The year-to-date increase is very much in line with WTO’s initial forecasts for the twelve months of 2005. According to the updated forecast in this Barometer, the year as a whole is expected to end with an increase of 5 to 6%.
This can be considered exceptional because international tourism is not only on track to consolidate the bumper year of 2004 (+10.7%), but it will also exceed the forecast long-term average growth of 4%.
Global tourism trends confirm that growth has slowed. The first quarter’s 9% rise halved in the second quarter (+4%), partly as a result of early Easter holidays, which fell in March this year. Month-on-month growth for March is estimated at +15%, with April at 0%, May at +7%, June at +6% and July at +5%.
This slowdown was to be expected, as tourism tends to grow faster in the shoulder season than in the high season.
This is because available transport and accommodation capacity can be a constraint at times of peak demand. On the other hand, it is also a sign that world tourism is entering a more sustained phase of growth.
Leisure tourism has once again outperformed business tourism, boosted by the increasing availability of low fares for short-haul travel and by pent-up demand still being released for long-haul destinations.
But anecdotal evidence points to a recovery in demand for business tourism, including the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) sector. Cruise tourism has also recorded above-average growth this year so far.
Many events and developments have combined to potentially undermine tourist confidence. Even though some countries are still recovering from the effects of the devastating Indian Ocean seaquake and tsunami, this has not noticeably influenced world, or regional, tourism trends-as predicted by WTO at the beginning of the year.
The same is true with regard to the recent bomb attacks in London, Turkey (Kusadasi, Istanbul and Ankara) and Egypt (Cairo and Sharm el-Sheikh), which have been compounded by airline accidents and natural disasters, including floods, droughts, hurricanes and earthquakes.
The industry has once again proved how resilient it is to shocks. In terms of consumer behavior, it is quite evident that travelers have been undeterred by external threats. At the global level the impact of such shocks has been negligible. They may have led to temporary shifts in travel flows, but they have not stopped people traveling. At the local level, the impact can be severe in the affected areas, but in most cases this is surprisingly short-lived.