Global tourism soaring, led by Mideast, despite financial crises


MADRID — Global tourism soared to a record performance in 2007, led by emerging markets, and the outlook remains good despite financial crises and high oil prices, the UN World Tourism Organisation said Tuesday.

“The year 2007 exceeded expectations for international tourism with arrivals reaching new record figures” of 898 million, up 52 million, or 6.2 percent, over 2006, the Madrid-based body said.

It said the performance was based on the sustained economic growth of recent years and the sector’s resilience to external factors.

The Middle East recorded the largest percentage increase, surging 13 percent to 46 million arrivals, followed by the Asia-Pacific region, with 10 percent, and Africa, eight percent, the UNWTO said in its annual report.

The Middle East “continues to be one of the tourism success stories of the decade so far, despite ongoing tensions and threats,” a UNWTO statement said.

“The region is emerging as a strong destination with visitor numbers climbing much faster than the world total, with Saudi Arabia and Egypt among the leading destinations in growth in 2007.”

The organisation said that confidence also remains high for 2008, although this perception could change.

“We are cautiously optimistic for 2008, which will see growth but probably not as high as in 2007,” said Frangialli.

He said only in the event of a “deep recession” in the United States would global tourism see negative growth this year.

The organisation said economies worldwide “have shown increased volatility and confidence has weakened in some markets due to uncertainty about the subprime mortgage crises and economic prospects, in particular for the USA, alongside global imbalances and high oil prices.”

“International tourism might be affected by this global context. But based on past experience, the sector’s proven resilience and given the current parameters, UNWTO does not expect that growth will come to a halt.”