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Economy & Trade

Asia to Drive Strong Growth in Global Tourism

Lakshman Ratnapala is Emeritus President & CEO of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 4 2015 (IPS) - Global tourism, which stood at a mere 25 million international travelers in 1950 has, over the past decades, experienced such phenomenal growth and diversification that today it has become one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world.

The resilience of the global travel industry to face calamities is well known.

With both technology and travelers' habits changing, the Asian millennial traveler will make a very large chunk of the world travel demographics.

The tourism industry has achieved remarkable growth, from 278 million in 1980 to 528 million in 1995, 1,017 million in 2013 and to an unprecedented 1,138 million in 2014, an increase of 4.7 percent over the previous year.

Modern tourism is closely linked to development and encompasses a growing number of new destinations. These dynamics have turned tourism into a key driver for socio-economic progress.

According to the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the business volume of tourism today equals or even surpasses that of oil exports, food products or automobiles.

Tourism has become one of the major players in international commerce and represents at the same time, one of the main income sources for many developing countries.

This growth goes hand in hand with an increasing diversification and competition among destinations and has produced economic and employment benefits in many related sectors-from construction to agriculture or telecommunications.

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) reports that travel and tourism’s contribution to the global economy has risen to 9.5 percent of global gross domestic product (seven trillion dollars) – not only outpacing the wider economy but also growing faster than other key sectors such as financial and business services, transport and manufacturing.

What is more important than the number of tourist arrivals in various destinations, is the growth in value in international tourism receipts because income from foreign tourism is critical to the well being of many of the world’s economies and in some cases to their very existence.

In fact, many governments promote investment in tourism, as a key driver of socio-economic progress through export revenues, the creation of jobs and enterprises and infrastructure development.

UNWTO forecasts international tourist arrivals to grow between 3 percent and 4 percent in 2015 with the strongest growth expected in Asia and the Americas (both 4 percent to 5 percent). Over 300 tourism experts have cited the following reasons for this optimistic forecast for 2015 –

* Continuing demand through 2015, as the world economic situation improves.
* Decline of oil prices.
* Lower transport costs will boost economic growth by lifting purchasing prices and private demand in oil importing economies.

The currently rising value of the U.S. dollar will encourage more Americans to take advantage of better travel deals.

The purchasing power of the American dollar has grown 15 percent against the euro, 10 percent against the yen and 21 percent against the Argentine peso.

While this may be good news for the American traveler, it is bad news for others, the most glaring example of which is Russia where revenue from oil exports have fallen drastically and harsh economic sanctions by the Europeans and the U.S. have sent the Russian economy into a spin, sending the U.S. dollar rocketing to 49 percent against the ruble.

Russia has been a good provider of tourists to several countries, who will now certainly see a drop in arrivals.

Over the next 10 years substantial growth will be driven by Asian inbound destinations and outbound source markets with China leading the way.

The total number of trips abroad from China is estimated to have increased by 11 million to 109 million in 2014. Expenditure was up by 17 percent in the first three quarters of 2014.

China is the world’s largest outbound source market since 2012 with a total expenditure of 129 billion dollars in 2013. With both technology and travelers’ habits changing, the Asian millennial traveler will make a very large chunk of the world travel demographics.

The International Monetary Fund reported that global Gross Domestic Product grew 3.4 percent for 2014 up from 3 percent in 2013. China, India and South East Asia were the key drivers of this growth.

A joint study by the Singapore Tourism Board, Visa and Mc Kinsey & Co. revealed that over the next decade, Asian millennial traveler (AMT) expenditure on international travel is expected to increase by 1.6 times to 340 billion dollars. AMT covers approximately a quarter of Asia’s total population.

The UNWTO expects the number of international arrivals to increase by an average of 3.3 percent a year over the period 2010 to 2030. Over time, the rate of growth will gradually slow on top of growing base numbers.

In absolute numbers, international tourist arrivals will increase by some 43 million a year, compared with an average increase of 28 million a year during the period 1995 to 2010.

At the projected rate of growth international tourist arrivals worldwide are expected to reach 1.4 billion by 2020 and 1.8 billion by the year 2030.

International tourist arrivals in the emerging economy destinations will grow at double the rate (+4.4 percent a year) of that of advanced economy destinations (+2.2 percent a year). As a result, arrivals in emerging economies are expected to exceed those in advanced economies before 2020.

In 2030, 57 percent of international arrivals will be in emerging economy destinations (versus 30 percent in 1980) and 43 percent in advanced economy destinations (versus 70 percent in 1980).

The strongest growth will be seen in Asia where arrivals are forecast to increase by 331 million to reach 535 million in 2030 (+4.9 percent per year). The Middle East and Africa are also expected to more than double their arrivals in this period.

Europe (from 475 million to 744 million) and the Americas (from 150 million to 248 million) will grow comparatively more slowly.

Thanks to their faster growth, the global market shares of Asia (to 30 percent in 2030 up from 22 percent in 2010), the Middle East (to 8 percent, from 6 percent) and Africa (to 7 percent from 5 percent) will all increase.

As a result, Europe (to 41 percent from 51 percent) and the Americas (to 14 percent from 16 percent) will experience a further decline of their share of international tourism.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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