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International Tourism Up by 5.5%

In 2005 international tourism sustained the sharp upturn that began in 2004 in spite of the various tragic events it had to contend. According to preliminary results presented with by the United Nations specialized agency, the World Tourism Organization, the number of international tourist arrivals recorded worldwide grew by 5.5% and exceeded 800 million for the first time ever.

Although 2005 was certainly a tumultuous year, international tourism has fared amazingly well. Despite various terrorist attacks and natural disasters, such as the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami and an extraordinarily long and strong hurricane season, the recovery, which started in 2004, continued firmly through 2005.

Even though the disruptions experienced definitely left traces locally in the short-term, they did not substantially alter the global or regional traffic flows.

Based on detailed results for a large number of destinations included in the January issue of the organization’s World Tourism Barometer, the number of international tourist arrivals in 2005 is estimated at 808 million, up from 766 million in 2004.

This corresponds not only to an increase of 5.5%, but also means a consolidation of the bumper growth achieved in 2004 (+10%). Although growth was more moderate, it is still almost 1.5 percentage points above the long-term average annual growth rate of 4.1%.

Europe recorded relatively modest growth of 4%, which is still one percentage point above the long-term trend of the region. This result can be considered very encouraging given the rather weak economy in some of its major intra-regional source markets. Moreover, due to Europe’s already very large base of over 400 million arrivals, in absolute terms it recorded the largest increase corresponding to some 18 million arrivals. Growth was strongest in Northern Europe (+7%), boosted by the United Kingdom (+10% Jan-Nov), which was seemingly not notably affected by the London bomb attacks. International tourist arrivals in Southern and Mediterranean Europe increased by 6%. Turkey was the star performer in this sub-region with an increase of 20%, adding 3.4 million arrivals and passing the 20-million mark.

For 2006 the current pattern of gradually slowing growth is expected to continue. International tourist arrivals worldwide are expected to grow between 4 – 5% in 2006. Growth is projected to be around one percentage point lower than in 2005 but still somewhat above the forecast long-term annual growth rate of 4.1%.

This outlook is supported by the continued good shape of the world economy in most parts of the world and the improved prospects for the eurozone economies, in particular its most important source market Germany.

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