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JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia and Dubai have shown particularly positive results in tourism, despite a generally bleak market in the Middle East and North African region as a result of political restiveness.
Tourism sector in both Saudi Arabia and Dubai remained dynamic all throughout, the latest issue of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer showed.
“The sustained optimism shown by the UNWTO Confidence Index is reassuring, especially as we still face many factors which could dampen growth. While global economic prospects indicate an improved second half of the year, UNWTO remains alert to social instability in certain parts of the world, volatile oil prices and concerns over fiscal stability in the US and Europe,” UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said.
The Middle East (-7 percent) and North Africa (-11 percent) have been considerably affected by recent developments, the report noted. Yet, within Africa (+2 percent), arrivals to Sub-Saharan Africa (+8 percent) stand out.
UNWTO maintains its forecast for international tourist arrivals in 2011 at between 4 percent and 5 percent, slightly above the long-term average and in line with previous assessments. The developments in the Middle East, North Africa and Japan are not expected to significantly alter the global forecast.
The report noted the marked differences in the confidence levels for different world regions, with experts in the Americas and Europe anticipating the best outcomes. Confidence remains high in Africa, but lower than might have been expected in Asia and the Pacific. Experts in the Middle East are the least optimistic.
Growth in Asia and the Pacific (+5 percent) was in line with the world average, but slightly below previous prospects. Asia, and in particular Northeast Asia, suffered the impact of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan which affected both its inbound and outbound travel as well as intra-regional travel from other markets. International tourist arrivals grew by 4.5 percent in the first four months of 2011, despite new challenges emerging since the beginning of the year, the report further said. According to the latest issue of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, growth was positive in all regions with the exception of the Middle East. Some subregions achieved double-digit growth: South America (+17 percent), South Asia (+14 percent) and South-East Asia (+10 percent).
“Global tourism continues to consolidate the recovery of 2010 despite the impact of recent developments in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the tragic events in Japan, which are temporarily affecting travel flows to these regions. We should nonetheless remain vigilant as we face other persisting uncertainties such as high unemployment and increased public austerity measures,” Rifai added.
© The Saudi Gazette 2011