World tourism flows in 2008

In 2008, 924 million international tourist arrivals were recorded globally, which is 16 million more than the arrivals recoded in 2007, i.e. an increase of 2%.

This increase is due to the positive results of the first half of the year, given that a sharp change in arrivals is noted in the second half, making 2008 a year of contrasts for international tourism. Thus, while a 5% increase is noted between January and June, in the second half global tourism arrivals decreased by 1% as a result of the very unstable global economy (financial crisis, increase in the price of commodities and oil, strong exchange rate fluctuations).

Development was negative in the second half of 2008 in Europe (-3%) and Asia (-3%), where the decrease was even more significant, given the two-digit increase recorded in 2007 and the dynamic presence in the first half of 2008 (+6%). On the other hand, America (+1%), Africa (+4%) and the Middle East (+5%) presented positive results in the second half of the year, albeit with a significant decrease in relation to the January-June period.

For the year as a whole, all regions recorded an increase except for Europe where the number of international tourist arrivals remained unchanged. The best results were recorded in the Middle East (+11%), Africa (+5%) and America (+4%).

(Source: UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, January 2009)

Forecasts for 2009

The economic crisis, together with uncertainty and strong market fluctuations and reduced consumer confidence are expected to continue affecting tourism demand, in the short- and medium term at least.

The WTO believes that international tourism will remain stable (0%) or will fall slightly (from ‑1% to -2%) during the year. Nevertheless, there is great uncertainty and a lot will depend on how the economic conditions evolve. If the economy continues to show signs of early recovery, international tourism may increase slightly in 2009 but if economic conditions worsen further then the current forecast will be exactly the opposite.

Together with America, Europe will be the region affected the most with respect to tourism figures, as the major origin markets will have entered into recession.

(Source: UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, January 2009)