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World tourism up sharply last year: UN

International tourism recovered faster than expected from the global financial crisis, growing almost seven percent last year compared to 2009, the UN World Tourism Organisation said Monday.

“Boosted by improved economic conditions worldwide, international tourism has recovered faster than expected from the impacts of the global financial crisis and economic recession of late 2008 and 2009,” the Madrid-based body said in a statement.

It said international tourist arrivals were up by 6.7 percent, or 58 million, at 935 million compared to 2009 “with positive growth reported in all world regions.”

“While all regions posted growth in international tourist arrivals, emerging economies remain the main drivers of this recovery,” it said.

The figure was higher than the pre-crisis level of 913 million in 2008.

The result “is better than many experts predicted,” the organisation’s secretary-general Taleb Rifai told a news conference.

“The important part of this is that we are finally above the level of 2008… The challenge now is to consolidate this growth, which is not going to be an easy task.”

The organisation predicts growth will continue in 2011, but at a slower rate of 4-5 percent, he said.