Tourism is facing increasingly difficult conditions as the global economy deteriorates and Asia and the Pacific, one of fastest growing tourism regions in the world, is also strongly feeling the impact of the global slowdown. But, as concluded by the over 100 experts from 25 countries gathered in Guilin for the 2nd UNWTO Conference on Tourism Trends and Outlook, tourism can be one of the key sectors contributing to overcome the current economic difficulties and can play a vital part in a long term green economic new deal.

Growth in arrivals rapidly slowing
International tourist arrivals in Asia and the Pacific are estimated to have increased by around 3% between January and October this year as compared to a 10.5% growth for the full of 2007. The slowdown was particularly strong since August following the spike in oil prices and the consequent cuts in airline capacity and increasing transport costs. In fact, all world regions have followed broadly similar slowdown patterns and Asia and the Pacific has been no exception with extreme weather, security and political shifts in major markets compounding the situation. The impact in receipts is expected to be even more significant as travellers trim down their length of stay and their consumption in terms of type of accommodation and other activities.

In the shorter term, overall prospects – against continuing downward revisions in macro-economic expectations and primary generating markets in recession – look quite gloomy. But tourism is more and more emerging as a strong potential contributor to economic recovery. An excellent example is China’s current plan to stimulate its 1.6 billion domestic travel market as one of the government’s measures to stimulate economic growth.

“Tourism can deliver more than most sectors for the economy as a whole. Mobility is hardwired into the human gene. Tourism – for business and leisure underpins trade, communication and modern lifestyles. It is one of the biggest export sectors and a vital increasingly important part of the development agenda.” stressed Mr. Geoffrey Lipman, UNWTO Assistant Secretary General.

Looking beyond the turmoil
Another fundamental issue arising from the two day debate was the imperative of looking at the longer term and positioning tourism against the global challenges like the poverty and climate imperatives. Only businesses and destinations which take the right decisions now will survive in the outcome of the crisis. In a moment of such significant uncertainty and volatility, participants to the conference reinforced that it is crucial to adopt long-term strategic views and measures and to reinforce international cooperation at all levels to effectively deal with the challenges of a more sustainable tourism development.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that global leaders are looking to a green new deal to help respond to the challenges of the macroeconomic crisis and the climate and development agenda. New jobs, new technology, new finance to stimulate our economies and at the same time to reduce our carbon footprint”, said Mr. Lipman.  “There is no better sector for this green economy approach than tourism.
•    Tourism can deliver for the economy as a whole. It is a catalytic industry and should be part of stimulus packages for infrastructure, jobs and investment
•    We must make sure that Tourism is aligned closely to evolving norms on climate and development. We don’t need to be ahead… but we can’t afford to be left behind
•    We must build quadruple bottom line sustainability into every facet of our supply and demand chain – economic, social, environment and climate balance“, he added.

UNWTO’s Response to the Global Economic Downturn
UNWTO is taking proactive steps to tackle the effect of the on-going worldwide economic instability on tourism. In October, UNWTO constituted a Tourism Resilience Committee (TRC) to help its members going through this difficult time.

TRC will serve as a platform for UNWTO Members to consider the volatile economic situation and
•    receive and share market information
•    identify best practice response, and
•    help focus broader sectoral approaches

After a first assessment of the impact that the global economic downturn is having in tourism at the 2008 Ministers’ Summit (London, UK, 11 November), the first full meeting of UNWTO’s Resilience Committee will be held on the 28th January 2009 on the occasion of the Spanish Tourism Fair, FITUR .

The 2nd UNWTO Conference on Tourism Trends and Outlook was organised by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in collaboration with the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), the Boao Forum for Asia and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and hosted by Guilin city with the support of the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA).

The UNWTO Conference on Tourism Trends and Outlook is growing as an annual forum for tourism policy makers, planners, researchers and marketers interested in the latest trends shaping and impacting on tourism development.

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