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World

Emerging economies drive recovery of world tourism

International tourism recovered from the economic crisis in 2010, with a surge of 6.7 percent compared to the previous year, according to the UN World Tourism Organization. The growth was driven by emerging economies.

A man enjoying the sun in Hawaii

There were 935 million tourists worldwide last year

International tourism bounced back from the global financial crisis in 2010, increasing by 6.7 percent to 935 million worldwide, the Madrid-based UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) announced Monday.

"Tourism has once again proved to be a highly resilient sector," UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai said in announcing the results.

Tourist destinations across the world reported positive figures. However, tourism in emerging economies showed particular vigor, growing by a healthy 8 percent, compared with 5 percent in advanced economies.

"Emerging economies remain the main drivers of this recovery," Rifai said.

The fastest-growing regions were the Middle East (up 14 percent), Asia (up 13 percent) and the Americas (up 8 percent).

Volcanic disruption

European tourism, by contrast, grew by just 3.2 percent. The relatively meager growth was put down to the eruption of the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano in Iceland last April and uncertainty in the eurozone. In northern Europe the number of tourists fell by 0.1 percent.

Iceland volcano

The volcano in Iceland affected tourism in Europe

But despite a series of natural disasters, political and social unrest in some corners of the world, and continued tension on financial markets, the number of holidaymakers worldwide grew to 935 million, up by 58 million on the previous year.

The figure was higher than the pre-crisis level of 913 million in 2008.

"The challenge is now to consolidate this growth," Rifai said.

The UN organization noted the importance of so-called "mega-events" on the flow of tourism, including the Shanghai Expo in China, the World Cup in South Africa, the Winter Olympics in Canada and the Commonwealth Games in India.

The UN World Tourism Organization predicted growth would continue in 2011, but at a slower rate.

"Persistent high unemployment remains a major concern," the UN said.

Author: Joanna Impey (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Rob Turner

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