Tourism growth will fall in line with the downturn in the economy, but the industry will not require the government’s financial help demanded by other sectors.
United Nations World Tourism Organization secretary-general Francesco Frangialli said: “There will be no tourism tsunami and we do not need a stimulus package for tourism.”
Addressing a tourism ministers’ summit at World Travel Market on Tuesday, Frangialli said: “The outlook is not bright. We are worried, but not in a panic because tourism flows from emerging countries are increasing and the need to travel and the desire for leisure are now engrained.”
However, Professor Peter Keller, director of tourism at the University of Lausanne, warned the ministers: “It is unlikely emerging economies will be the driver of the world economy.
“International tourism grows on the same path as GDP. Demand returns when the economy grows. This crisis is global and may last longer [than past downturns]. Long-haul travel will suffer and, for the first time, we see losses for high-end tourism.”
Keller predicted “a slow downturn and a slow recovery”. But he added: “Crises are always limited in time.”
The UNWTO does not foresee contraction for the industry in 2009, but predicts growth of 0%-2% in world arrivals against a long-term annual growth rate of 4.2%. However, the organisation stresses this is an “initial” forecast – and it foresees a tough time for the UK, suggesting the country’s economy will contract by 1.4% next year, while other major economies stagnate at worst.
The UNWTO reported a 3.7% rise in arrivals this year to the end of August, noting “a clear inversion of trend this summer”.
Frangialli said: “The sector is coming off a high level of performance. Arrivals in 2007 were up more than 6%.”
The UNWTO secretary-general will step down in January to take up a position at the University of Paris.
* More WTM 2008 coverage at travelweekly.co.uk/wtm2008