WTTC Reports Travel and Tourism Still Growing Despite Uncertain Economy
By James Shillinglaw
November 04, 2012 8:27 PM
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), in an update of forecasts made at the beginning of the year, is predicting growth for travel and tourism globally of 2.7 percent, only slightly downgraded from the 2.8 percent that was expected for the industry at the beginning of the year.
The main reasons for the marginal downgrade are that WTTC now expects world GDP growth to be 2.3 percent in 2012, down 0.2 percent from the beginning of the year and due in part to the continuing problems in the Eurozone. The latest economic data from WTTC’s research partner, Oxford Economics, show marginal downgrades in the Eurozone and the U.S. since the beginning of the year, contrasting with upgrades in Japan and emerging markets.
South Korea’s annual travel and tourism GDP growth of 13.2 percent is the highest of any G20 country. Its boom coincides with its self-designation of 2010-12 as the “Visit Korea” years and strong international demand from its main two markets (Japan and China). Favorable exchange rates and a number of cultural, sporting and economic events have also contributed to its booming travel and tourism growth. By contrast, Italy is currently showing the weakest performance of any G20 country, with travel and tourism GDP growth expected to be down 2.8 percent in 2012.
“The latest figures from WTTC confirm the resilience of the travel and tourism industry around the world,” said David Scowsill, president and CEO of the WTTC. “Despite some specific and regional downgrades to short-term economic and industry forecasts, the longer-term prospects for travel and tourism remain very positive, and continue to be boosted by strong growth and rising prosperity in emerging markets. We expect the direct contribution of travel and tourism to global GDP to grow by an average of 4 percent per annum between 2011 and 2021 with North East Asia making up a growing share of the overall travel and tourism contribution to GDP.”
Among other highlights of the WTTC report, the volume of travel and tourism movements has been positive so far in 2012 and has exceeded expectations from the start of the year. International tourist arrivals have grown 4.9 percent in the year from January to June, airline passenger traffic is up 6.8 percent, and hotel occupancy rates are up in many markets apart from Southern Europe.
The best-performing countries for international tourist arrivals are those rebounding from difficult times in 2010 and 2011. In the period from January to June this year, Japan’s arrival figures were up 44.4 percent, Tunisia was up 41.7 percent and Egypt was up 23.4 percent. South Korea, where visitors from its main market of Japan stayed home after the tsunami, has also been incredibly strong this year with arrivals figures increasing 21.8 percent YTD.
Although international visitor’s arrival figures are looking robust, there is evidence of declines both in terms of average spend and hotel average daily room rates (ADRs) in some regions -- notably Europe, Northern and Southern Africa. In weaker markets, especially Europe, WTTC said the data is suggesting that the industry could be holding prices down in order to stimulate demand and consumers are choosing lower-priced trips.
In the Middle East, projections for travel and tourism GDP are still for growth overall, but as the region continues to struggle with further turmoil and negative perceptions of safety and security, growth has been revised down to 1.8 percent from 3.1 percent in January. Lebanon’s international tourist arrivals showing negative 12.4 percent growth has been depressed by the conflict in neighboring Syria.
Europe is the only world region where negative travel and tourism GDP growth is expected. WTTC forecasts further downgrades in European travel and tourism GDP to negative 0.6 percent from negative 0.2 percent at the start of the year. Greece continues to struggle with travel and tourism, which contributed 12.4 billion euros or 6.4 percent of GDP to its economy in 2011, but has experienced a 9 percent decline in visitor arrivals in the first half of this year. Italy’s economic difficulties this year have clearly had an impact on its domestic tourism spend, which has declined by nearly 4 percent in the year to date. Overall, Italy’s travel and tourism GDP is expected to be negative at negative 2.8 percent in 2012. Small downward revisions have also been made for Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.
On a positive note, upward projections have been forecast for Oceania, with 3.2 percent travel and tourism GDP growth up from 2.4 percent growth expected earlier in the year, and Southeast Asia, up 1.1 percentage points to 5.5 percent, with a smaller positive revision expected for North America, up 0.4 percentage points to 1.5 percent
Global travel and tourism growth is still being driven by emerging economies, particularly those in Asia. China’s travel and tourism GDP will grow 7.2 percent and India by 5.7 percent in 2012, although slight downward revisions have been made. The revision in China’s travel and tourism growth by 1.2 percentage points is largely linked to a weaker export performance elsewhere in its economy as the struggling Eurozone is the destination for around 15 percent of China’s exports. India’s downgrade is the result of its major infrastructure problems contributing to power blackouts that affected half of its population in the second quarter of this year.