Magazine article International Trade Forum

The Big Picture: Tourism & Sustainable Development: As a US$ 3 Billion a Day Global Business, the Tourism Sector Is One of the World's Fastest Growing Industries and an Important Driver for Economic Growth in Least Developed Countries

Magazine article International Trade Forum

The Big Picture: Tourism & Sustainable Development: As a US$ 3 Billion a Day Global Business, the Tourism Sector Is One of the World's Fastest Growing Industries and an Important Driver for Economic Growth in Least Developed Countries

Article excerpt

Since the 1950s, tourism has experienced continued expansion and diversification, becoming one of the largest and m fastest growing economic sectors in the world. As an export category, tourism currently ranks fourth globally after fuels, chemicals and automotive products. For as many as 23 of the 49 least developed countries (LDCs), international tourism is among the top three foreign exchange earners, accounting for up to 40% of each country's GDP.

According to figures by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the development of tourism has been identified as an important factor for at least 10 LDCs that will reach WTO graduation (the economic advancement of developing countries through industrialization, export development and rising living standards) thresholds over the next decade. Tourism has also been singled out as a distinct 'graduation factor' for at least three former LDCs, notably Cape Verde, the Maldives and Samoa. Growth supported by the development of tourism can also occur at an impressive pace, as has been the case in countries like Tanzania and Costa Rica (see spotlights on page 08).

'This is a sector that from an export perspective is a relatively new activity for LDCs. Despite this, the development dimension of tourism is increasingly recognized as central to their economic recovery and long-term growth. Between 2000 and 2009, receipts from international tourism in LDCs grew by more than 14% annually, higher than the growth rate of 10% for other developing economies and double the global average of 7%,' said WTO Director-General Mr. Pascal Lamy in his opening address at the World Export Development Forum (WEDF) in May (see WEDF 2011 Report, page 09).

Despite having been hard-hit by the recent economic and financial crisis, the tourism sector continues to be among the most dynamic in the global economy. The worldwide contribution of tourism to GDP exceeds 5% and its annual turnover has been growing at a faster pace than GDP.

According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), demand for tourism services fell abruptly in mid-2008 but returned to growth in the last quarter of 2009 and continued to grow throughout 2010 and into the first quarter of 2011. In 2010 international tourism receipts surpassed US$ 900 billion, up 4.7% on 2009. According to the April interim update of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer Worldwide, international tourist arrivals surpassed 124 million in the first two months of 2011, up from 119 million for the same period in 2010, with emerging economies continuing to grow at a faster pace (+6%) than developed countries (+4%).

'These results confirm that in spite of several challenges, the recovery of international tourism, which was remarkably strong last year, is consolidating,' said UNWTO Secretary-General Mr. Taleb Rifai in his address at WEDF 2011.

'News is especially positive for emerging economies and developing countries, particularly for Africa where tourism is increasingly recognized as a driver of development, exports and jobs,' he added,

In part, this recovery can be credited to measures--be they fiscal, monetary or marketing support to the tourism sector--that many countries implemented to stimulate their economies and restore growth after the crisis.

Strong tourism growth in 2010

According to UNWTO Tourism Highlights (2011 edition), the vast majority of destinations reported positive increases on 2009 figures in international tourist arrivals during 2010. All regions posted positive growth in real terms, with the exception of Europe (-0.4%). The Middle East (+14%) and Asia and the Pacific (+13%) showed the strongest growth, while the Americas (+5%) was close to the worldwide average and Africa grew (+3%) somewhat slower, despite strong growth in South Africa (+15%) after the hosting of the football World Cup. The most significant change in 2010 international arrivals was the emergence of China to third place in international arrival numbers and fourth place in terms of tourism receipts (+15%) (see Growth in International Tourist Arrivals 2010 below). …

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