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World Tourism Organization

`WTO Tourism Highlights, edition 2003`: Changes in market behaviour and weak world economy dictate tourism trends

Although international tourism enjoyed an almost three per cent growth in 2002, international tourism receipts did not follow as the pressure on…

Although international tourism enjoyed an almost three per cent growth in 2002, international tourism receipts did not follow as the pressure on prices continued, says the World Tourism Organization (WTO) by the presentation of the 2003 edition of the WTO Tourism Highlights.

Although 2002 was certainly not an easy year, international tourism held up fairly well. According to data collected by WTO Secretariat from the vast majority of destination countries, the number of international tourist arrivals grew by 2.7 per cent in 2002 after a decrease of 0.5 per cent in 2001. The 700 million mark was surpassed and compared to the previous record year 2000 almost 16 million more arrivals were counted. International tourism receipts varied only little with a moderate increase of just 0.3 per cent, after a loss of 1% in 2001.

In 2002, uncertainty continued to play a major role in the markets, under the threat of new terrorist attacks and the looming Iraq conflict. Additionally, the long-awaited economic recovery, was not taking place as rapidly as initially expected, affecting in particular some of the most important generating markets. These adverse conditions resulted not so much in a decrease in overall volume but, above all, in the reinforcement of the shifts in demand towards trips to domestic and familiar destinations that were closer to home, and travel by car, coach or train instead of by plane. Consumers adopted a wait-and-see attitude, resulting in pressure on prices and late bookings. Many sectors went, and are still going, through a difficult time, in particular airlines and all sectors more dependent on long-haul traffic. Other products or market segments, however, have resisted well or even benefited, such as special interest trips or travel for the purpose of visiting family, friends and relatives.

This climate has also accelerated a number of changes that were already underway in the industry. Low-cost airlines kept on growing in North America, and developed rapidly in Europe. The Internet strengthened its role not only as a means of information but also as a means of organizing and booking transport, accommodation or complete trips. Individual (not organized) travel proliferated, while tour operators faced relatively hard times.

`Do-it-yourself` is becoming more and more common, particularly for the mature and experienced travellers, vigorously stimulated by the possibilities offered by low-cost airlines and the Internet.

International Tourist Arrivals

Americas still on the negative as Asia and the Pacific confirms its second position in the world

All regions performed positively in 2002, except for the Americas, which saw its tourist arrivals declining for the second year in a row (-4% in 2002, -10% in the period 2001-2002), still on the wake of the 11 September.

Europe confirmed its leading position as world top destination with a 57 per cent market share, but grew only at a moderate pace (+2%), still suffering the decreases in long haul traffic and the slow economic performance of some of its most important intraregional generating markets. Asia and the Pacific maintained its strong growth trend and reinforced its position as second most visited region (+8%). Surprisingly the strongest performance was seen in the Middle East (+17%), with more and more countries opening themselves successfully to tourism and intraregional tourism demand booming. In Africa tourism continued its rising trend of the past years (+3%).

International Tourism Receipts

trading down and pressure on prices

Worldwide receipts for international tourism amounted to US$ 474 billion (euro 501 billion), corresponding to US$1.3 billion a day or some US$ 675 per tourist arrival. As a result of fluctuations in exchange rates it is always difficult to correctly interpret short-term trends, for instance in 2001 dollar still appreciated by some 3 per cent compared to the euro while in 2002 the dollar slid by 5 per cent. Expressed in (weighted) local currencies at constant prices (i.e. taking account of inflation) international tourism receipts increased by just 0.3 per cent over 2001, with decreases in both the Americas and in Europe offset by increases in Asia and the Pacific, the Middle East and Africa. Receipts grew slower than arrivals as a result of trading down in expenditure (shorter stays, closer to home, more economic transport and accommodation options, etc.) and a general pressure on prices.

The United States remains the unchallenged leader among the world earners with US$ 67 billion, despite the crisis and the significant drop of almost 20 per cent in receipts since 2000. Spain, France and Italy follow with receipts between US$ 34 and 27 billion each. Among the top earners, Hong Kong (China), China and Austria performed strongest, all recording double-digit growth in 2002.

Outbound tourism by generating regions

long-haul still stagnant

In terms of source markets, international tourism is still relatively concentrated in the industrialized countries of Europe, the Americas and East Asia and the Pacific. However, with rising levels of disposable income, many emerging economies have shown fast growth in the last decades, in particular in Northeast and Southeast Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Southern Africa. Except for the Americas, which decreased for the second year in a row, all regions showed growth in 2002, with the

highest increases recorded in the Middle East (+11%) and Asia and the Pacific (+8%).

By far most international travel takes places within the same region, some four fifths of the total. While in normal circumstances travel between regions tends to grow at a faster rate than intraregional travel, in the last two years, the trend was the opposite. In 2002, travel to other regions was flat after a decrease of 6% in 2001, while intraregional travel still grew in both years by 1% and 3% and respectively.

The ranking of the world`s top spenders on international tourism remained virtually unchanged in 2002. However, expenditure by the regional leaders United States, Germany (in euro terms actually performing negatively) and Japan stagnated or only grew marginally in 2002, while the Russian Federation (+21%), Italy (+14%), China (+11%) and the United Kingdom (+11%) still added a double-digit increase.

Tourism Highlights, Edition 2003

The WTO Tourism Highlights, Edition 2003 presents a concise overview of international tourism in the world based on the results for the year 2002. The eight page brochure offers statistics and analysis on international tourist arrivals, international tourism receipts, a summary of the results by region, top destinations by arrivals and receipts, outbound tourism by

generating region, top spenders, etc. The brochure is an advance on the forthcoming WTO Tourism Market Trends, Edition 2003 series of regional reports containing an in-depth analysis of the short- and mid-term tourism trends by region, subregion and country.

The electronic version of the Tourism Highlights, Edition 2003 can be downloaded free of charge from the Facts & Figures section at www.world-tourism.org.

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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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