By Shane McGinley
World Tourism Organisation report says positive growth expected in 2010.
International tourists visiting the Middle East declined by six percent last year, according to a new report by the UN World Tourism Organisation [UNWTO].
However, figures began to recover in the second half of the year and a return to positive growth is expected in 2010, the report added.
The UNWTO’s latest World Tourism Barometer said that international tourist arrivals for business, leisure and other purposes are estimated to have declined worldwide by four percent in 2009 to 880 million.
However, the report said that the figures were better than expected due to a two percent upsurge in the final quarter of the year, compared to declines of 10, seven and two percent in the first three quarters of the year.
Global tourism was forecast to grow by three to four percent in 2010, the report added.
“The global economic crisis aggravated by the uncertainty around the A(H1N1) pandemic turned 2009 into one of the toughest years for the tourism sector”, said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.
“However, the results of recent months suggest that recovery is underway, and even somewhat earlier and at a stronger pace than initially expected”, he added.
Based on the arrivals figures, the UNWTO estimated that earnings in the industry in the first three months of the year declined by six percent.
While the Middle East saw a decline of six percent for the year, the report said that growth levels were likely to improve as the second half of the year was more positive.
This comes on the back of a report last week from analysts at Business Monitor International which predicted a recovery in tourist numbers in the UAE this year.
The report said although it maintained a "rather poor outlook for the UAE in the short term", it saw visitor numbers rebounding this year and next, without giving specific numbers.
The research company also said it had revised its forecast of negative growth in 2009 from three percent to two percent, adding that the decision was based on "attempts by individual emirates to boost domestic tourism to compensate for the downturn in foreign visitor arrivals".
"Recovery in growth in arrivals is anticipated in 2010 and will pick up from 2011 with stronger growth rates than our earlier forecasts," it added.