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WTO: Shift to long haul travel predicted for Americas region

Tourism both into and out of the Americas is expected to show a significant shift towards long haul travel…

Tourism both into and out of the Americas is expected to show a significant shift towards long haul travel over the next two decades, according to a new study from the World Tourism Organization (WTO<.>).

As recently as 1995, intra-regional travel within the continent accounted for 77 per cent of all tourist arrivals, but by 2020 it will fall to 62 per cent.

Similarly, the percentage of long haul travellers in the outbound market will rise from 27 per cent to 31 per cent, according to the newly published WTO report Tourism 2020 Vision: Americas.

Although tourist arrivals to the region are predicted to grow by an average 3.9 per cent a year to reach 282.3 million in 2020, the Americas will see a dip in its global share from 19.3 to 18.1 per cent.

This will see the continent drop from second place behind Europe to third place, as it is surpassed by the East Asia and Pacific region-where travel is expanding more rapidly.

The existing tourism giants of North America, the United States, Mexico and Canada will continue to dominate the inbound market although their combined share is expected to drop to 68 per cent (192 million tourists annually) from the 74 per cent they held in 1995.

The United States is currently the world`s most visited country but its number one spot is forecast to be taken by China by 2020. The most significant change for the US will be an annual 7.1 per cent leap in Japanese visitors to almost 26 million, or one in four of the predicted 102 million international tourists a year. By 2020 Japanese tourists to the USA will outnumber tourists from neighbouring Mexico and Canada.

Mexico will continue to rely almost exclusively on the US market, which is predicted to rise 3.4 per cent a year to 44 million out of a total 49 million tourists.

The highest growth rates in the Americas will be in the Caribbean and the southern part of the continent. Leading the way will be Cuba, which should see an average rise of 9.2 per cent a year to 6.7 million on the assumption that travel restrictions from the United States will be lifted in the next few years. The US alone is expected to account for 2.3 million of Cuba`s tourists by 2020.

Other significant rises will be in Argentina, up by 5.1 per cent annually to 8 million, Brazil up 5.0 per cent a year to 14.1 million, the Dominican Republic 5.3 per cent annual growth to almost 7 million, and Chile with a 4.7 per cent growth rate to nearly 5 million.

Europe will remain the biggest long haul generating market for tourists to the Americas, rising an average 5.8 per cent a year to 66 million. But the biggest increases are expected from the East Asia and Pacific region, with a growth rate of 6.4 per cent to reach 40 million inbound tourists to the Americas by 2020.

In the outbound market, the Americas is expected to grow by just 3.1 per cent a year to 232.1 million-the lowest growth rate of any of WTO`s six regions. Europe will retain its position as the most popular long haul destination region, up an average 2.8 per cent a year to 44 million, while the fastest growing region will be the Middle East, up 7.5 per cent to 3.6 million.

WTO Chief of Market Intelligence and Promotion Augusto Huiscar says the report highlights increasing competition and the safety of tourists as the two greatest challenges for the Americas to overcome-especially health scares, natural disasters, crime against tourists, terrorist attacks and socio-political disturbances.

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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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