Spectacular growth in regional tourism until September
International tourism boomed last year, with a record 689 million people taking trips outside their home country, up 50 million or 7.4 percent from the 1999 figures, the World Tourism Organization (OMT) said Tuesday.
The figures "exceeded the most optimistic forecasts," OMT secretary general Francesco Frangialli told reporters at the body's Madrid headquarters. Total revenue from international tourism was estimated at some $476 billion.
The Olympic games in Sydney, the Euro 2000 football championships in Belgium and the Netherlands, the Expo-2000 exhibit in Hanover, Germany and the Christian Jubilee in Rome had proved a boon for the industry, Frangialli said.
France remained the most popular tourist destination with 74.5 million visitors in 2000, a two-percent rise, with the United States coming in second at 52.7 million, an increase of 8.7 percent.
Among the ten most popular tourist destinations, Russia recorded 23.2-percent growth to 22.8 million foreign tourists last year, while China saw 15.5-percent growth to 31.2 million visitors.
The strength of the dollar encouraged a record number of US tourists to travel to Europe last year. Britain was the only country to see negative growth (-1.9 percent), due to the high value of the pound.
The Middle East experienced "spectacular growth" until September 2000, when the breakout of new violence made tourism practically come to a standstill, but Egypt and Turkey were on the rise again after years of relatively poor performance.
In terms of consumption, the East Asia and Pacific region experienced the biggest growth last year, with a 14.5-percent growth and some 112 million people from the region deciding to travel abroad.
It was an indication that the region had recovered from the financial and monetary crisis of the early 1990s, Frangialli said. The OMT said it expected growth to fall to an estimated 4.1 percent in 2001, along with the slowing down of the US economy. — (AFP, Madrid)
By Dominique Orin
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)