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Global tourism seen back to growth mid-2010

Athens, October 20, 2009

Tourism is expected to return to modest growth worldwide by the middle of next year, the UN tourism body's secretary general said in an interview.

The global economic crisis and swine flu fears have cut the number of tourists entering foreign countries this year but not as badly as was feared, the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) secretary-general Taleb Rifai told Reuters.

'The results of the summer, particularly July and August, have shown a slight improvement in all destinations,' Rifai said during a visit to Athens.

With the global economy showing signs of recovery, people are becoming more confident and are travelling more, Rifai said, saying this explained why the drop in international arrivals had eased.

'The severe drop in demand that occurred in the first 5-6 months of 2009 has slightly improved,' he said late on Monday.

”We are forecasting we can finish 2009 with slightly better results, although still in the negative.'

Europe, which receives over half the world's tourists, would see international tourist arrivals drop by 5 per cent year-on-year in 2009, while the UNWTO sees international tourism dropping between 6 and 4 per cent worldwide this year.

Mediterranean countries like Greece, Turkey, Italy and Spain have been hit particularly badly, Rifai said.

'I think next year we'll see some easing of these difficulties. If the current control on the economic downturn continues ... then by the summer of 2010 we'll probably go back to some positive growth,' Rifai said.

'That is not going to be in any double digits or any high single digits but it is still an improvement when you go to positive results,' he said, saying the forecast applied both to Europe and the rest of the world.

Rifai said the onus was now on the industry, which needed to adapt to 'more intelligent' tourists.

'People always want to travel, this is not going to stop, but people travel differently ... they want more value for money,' he said, urging the tourism industry to embrace new technologies more aggressively and offer better, smarter packages. – Reuters




Tags: Athens | UNWTO | Global tourism | economic crisis |

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