Global tourism downturn forecast
Sharm-el-Sheikh, December 1, 2008
International tourism is likely to experience negative growth over the next six to nine months, alongside all major economic sectors, a conference has heard.
The challenges posed by the economic scenario were discussed at the ‘Conference for the Middle East and Mediterranean Region on Tourism - Responding to a Turbulent Economy’ in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt, recently.
The conference underscored tourism’s potential to foster growth, exports and employment, particularly in developing countries. It called for active government support of the sector.
The conference was a preparatory meeting for UNWTO’s Resilience Committee, to be chaired by Zohair Garrana, Minister of Tourism of Egypt. It was attended by 175 participants from over 20 countries and 14 international organizations.
Minister Garrana said: “The most urgent priority is to deal with the massive macroeconomic uncertainty and the market consequences and making flexibility in response an imperative, while keeping a close eye on the climate agenda”.
Secretary General Francisco Frangialli said: “UNWTO is committed to actively assist the sector during this period, keeping at the same time a strong focus on the longer-term challenges posed by the sustainable development and climate change agenda.”
The main conclusions of the conference were:
o However much the tourism sector has held up in 2008, forecasts suggest that the situation will deteriorate over the next 6-9 months. Tourism cannot be regarded separately from the turbulences affecting the global economy. Europe, Japan and the USA, three major tourism markets, are experiencing severe economic downturns and major institutions are downgrading expectations.
As governments implement economic stimulus, they should reflect the fact that:
o Tourism has very high export and job delivery capacity – particularly for developing countries.
o Creative approaches could include tax moratoria and rollback.
o More public/private sector collaboration should be encouraged.
o The banking and financial community have a vital role to play in supporting financially sustainable industry programmes and in considering innovative measures to respond to the economic circumstances.
The sector must change established practice and cut non-essential cost through:
o Targeted, strengthened promotion – particularly increasing marketing budgets and regional promotion.
o Integrated new media approaches and institutional collaborative advertising in innovative co-branding approaches.
o Collaborative e-tourism initiatives which foster and brand sustainable communities, engage enterprises and build capacity.
o Replicating available transport, hotel and service initiatives to respond to climate change and reduce energy costs.
The Conference strongly underscored the potential to promote climate neutral tourism. – TradeArabia News Service