MADRID ~ The number of international tourist arrivals is set to increase four percent in 2007 for a fourth straight year of strong growth, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) reported this week, noting the pull of Africa in particular.
“Forecast growth of four percent in 2007, while slightly down on previous years (the annualized rise was 5.5 percent in 2005), coincides with UNWTO long-term forecasts putting annual growth at 4.1 percent through 2020,” the Madrid-based body said.
The UNWTO said the outlook was rosy for the short term, owing to the strength of the global economy and favorable exchange rates benefiting European and Asian travelers.
“International tourism is likely to remain buoyant unless major incidents occur,” the UN body said.
In the first eight months of 2006, the UNWTO said international tourist arrivals hit 578 million worldwide, up 4.5 percent from 553 million in the same period of 2005.
That year had seen an all-time record of 806 million people traveling internationally as the sector rebounded strongly following the December 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean.
The UNWTO said Africa was leading the way with growth in arrivals set to top 10.6 percent this year to make it “the world’s regional leader in terms of growth” after January to August increased by 9.8 percent.
Sub-Saharan Africa saw a 12.6 percent rise with South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, Swaziland and the Seychelles all performing strongly while Morocco led the way in handing North Africa a 5.9 percent rise.
The UNWTO said the Middle East saw growth of six percent as “the 34-day conflict between Israel and Lebanon had only very limited impact.”