Despite a decline in third-quarter earnings, TUI, the world's leading travel and tourism group, remains confident about the outlook for its tourism division, according to a company statement released on Thursday. Profits before taxes fell by one percent to €504 million ($599.7 million) and revenues declined by 4.3 percent to €6.5 billion ($7.7 billion) in the period from July to September. But the company claimed that “in tourism, business in the third quarter of 2003 met expectations in a difficult economic environment." The statement added that consumer confidence had returned in the major source markets and demand for travel had increased with a strong winter performance in the last quarter being forecasted. "Earnings for the fourth quarter are expected to improve year-on-year. However, for the whole of 2003, earnings of the tourism division will be clearly positive but lower than last year," the statement read.