By Andy Sambidge
Region sees 1% rise in tourist arrivals in Jan-April compared to 5% growth globally
The Middle East saw a one percent increase in international tourist arrivals in the first four months of 2012 compared to the same period last year.
According to new figures released by United Nations World Tourism Organisation, the region lagged global growth of five percent.
The increase in tourism came despite continuing economic uncertainties in some of the major outbound markets, the UNWTO said in a statement.
The Middle East lost five million tourists last year due to the impact of the Arab Spring.
Tourism arrivals to the region slumped eight percent in 2011 but the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman still recorded "steady growth", UNWTO said previously.
Its World Tourism Barometer added that prospects remained positive for the period May-August, the Northern Hemisphere’s summer peak season, with around 415 million tourists expected to travel abroad.
Between January and April 2012, international tourist arrivals worldwide totalled 285 million, 15 million more than in the same period of 2011.
In the MENA region, Egypt - badly hit last year by political turmoil - was the star performer in the first four months of this year.
The country's tourism numbers rose 28 percent compared to the same period last year.
“It is very encouraging to see demand returning to countries such as Japan, Egypt and Tunisia. These are long standing tourism destinations ready to fully welcome back the millions of tourists that each year chose to visit them,” said UNWTO secretary-general, Taleb Rifai.
Asia and the Pacific and Africa (both up 8 percent), showed the best regional results.
UNWTO said it expects some 415 million tourists to travel internationally between May and August, the peak season in most of the world’s leading outbound markets and tourism destinations.
It forecasts international tourism to increase by 3-4 percent for the full year 2012.
"While the pace of growth is slowing down somewhat, international overnight visitors remain firmly on track to hit the milestone of one billion arrivals expected this year," UNWTO said.
Arab spring yes has caused a drop in tourism but countries like Saudi the figures include religeous tourism for Hajj and Umra take those figures out and its even worse
the real problem is what is there to do in Kuwait, Saudi and many other countries here as there are no places to go other than Malls and fast food joints while Dubai has theme parks etc where would most westerners go a dry country with nothing to do or a country where you have activities and places to go of an evening have a nice meal drink etc
come on middle east wake up get sorted and decide what type of tourist you want
@jay... they want obedient tourists that will follow instruction and not impact there faith based sensibilities . That precludes mass western tourism. There energy should be focused at tourist who share similar beliefs and conservative views.