x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Rise in tourists visiting Gulf lifts sector worldwide

UNWTO says international tourism "recovered strongly" last year, led by emerging economies.

Double-digit growth in international tourism arrivals in the Middle East hashelped a wider recovery in the global sector.

Arrivals in the Middle East last year increased 14 per cent to 60 million, with "almost all" destinations in the region growing by 10 per cent or more compared with 2009, figures from the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) showed yesterday.

Internationally, figures were up 6.7 per cent last year to 935 million arrivals following a 4 per cent decline the previous year, described by the UNWTO as the period in which the industry was hardest hit by the economic crisis.

"The recovery in international tourism is good news, especially for those developing countries that rely on the sector for much-needed revenue and jobs," said Taleb Rifai, the UNWTO secretary general. "The challenge now will be to consolidate this growth over the coming years amid a still uncertain global economic environment."

Although arrivals were up, growth in spending trailed the recovery in the number of travellers, according to the UNWTO. It said emerging economies such as China continued to drive growth in expenditure abroad. "Following a year of global recovery in 2010, growth is expected to continue for the tourism sector in 2011 but at a slower pace. UNWTO forecasts international tourist arrivals to grow at between 4 per cent to 5 per cent in 2011," it reported.

Last year, Dubai and Abu Dhabi's tourism authorities both reported increases in hotel guest numbers.

The UNWTO said the increases were driven by emerging economies. In Asia, international tourist arrivals grew 13 per cent last year compared with 2009 to reach 204 million, a record for the region. In Africa, arrivals grew 6 per cent to 49 million; Europe was up 3 per cent to 471 million and the Americas were up 8 per cent to 151 million, all compared with 2009.

But the UNWTO remained cautious about growth for this year. "Persistent high unemployment remains a major concern, with the gradual recovery in employment expected for 2011 still too weak to compensate for the jobs lost during the economic crisis," it said.