Al-Ahram Weekly Online   30 October - 5 November 2008
Issue No. 920
Sky High
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

WTO spotlights growth

BOTH the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) have focused on the massive growth of tourism to Egypt. This growth is having a positive effect on airlines and other tourism businesses, mainly travel and tour operators.

It's a fact that Egypt is seeking to diversify its economy through tourism. With increased tourism comes a growing awareness of the fact that Egypt is one of the closest destinations for Europeans who want year-round sun, making Egypt an increasingly attractive choice for second homes.

According to a report from the WTO, the Egyptian tourism figures for 2007 rose by 20 per cent. The Tourism Ministry has a plan in place to attract 14 million visitors by 2011, and a new initiative targeting Asia, Europe and North America is expected to ensure a doubling of tourists by 2015.

This increase in fact is reflected in Egypt's airports being now open to low cost carriers. The fact that the Egyptian currency is cheap in relation to the Euro, this has resulted in an increase of cheap flights heading from Europe to Red Sea resorts, particularly to the resorts of Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada.

For 2008 as a whole, WTO maintains a cautiously positive forecast. Uncertainty over the global economic situation is affecting consumer confidence and could hurt tourism demand.

According to the latest edition of the WTO World Tourism Barometer, the first results for 2008 suggest the relative stability of international tourism. In spite of uncertainties posed by the global economy, international tourist arrivals grew at around 5 per cent between January and April 2008, compared to the same period of 2007.

"The extent of any tourism demand adjustment and its consequences for the sector will depend on how the economy evolves and consumers react, both of which are directly related to oil and food prices. The WTO is monitoring this evolving situation closely. Given current circumstances we are cautious, although we remain optimistic for the overall industry perspectives in 2008," said WTO Secretary- General Francesco Frangialli.

For the latest WTO World Tourism Barometer, regional growth showed that all sub-regions posted positive results in the first months of the year. Growth was fastest in the Middle East, North-East and South Asia, and Central and South America. Growth was more modest in Europe, with best performances coming from southern and Mediterranean destinations.

A variety of destinations all around the globe reported double- digit growth rates in the first three to five months of 2008, among which in Africa and the Middle East: Bahrain, Egypt and Morocco.

The anticipated softening of international tourism growth in 2008, yet still clearly at a positive level, follows four historically strong years. Between 2004 and 2007 international tourism grew at an extraordinary above average rate of 7 per cent a year.

The current economic imbalances, in particular rising energy prices, are very likely to influence tourism spending. Accounting for many factors; such as security threats, geopolitical tensions or natural and man- made crises, coupled with a slower but still positive economic growth, international tourism is as yet expected to keep growing at a solid pace in the mid-term, broadly in line with WTO's Tourism 2020 Vision forecast long-term growth rate of about 4 per cent.

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