World tourism returns to pre-crisis levels: UN

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World tourism arrivals have returned to a level not seen since before the global financial meltdown in late 2008, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation said Wednesday.

"Results through August 2010 prove that international tourism continues to recover from the decline of 4.2 percent suffered last year under the impact of the economic crisis," the Madrid-based body said in a statement.

"In the first eight months of this year, the number of international tourist arrivals exceeded the record achieved during the same period of the pre-crisis year 2008."

It said that arrivals between January and August this year totalled 642 million, some 40 million more than during the same period in 2009 and one million more than in the record year of 2008.

It projected an increase of 5.0-6.0 percent over the full year, and of around 4.0 percent in 2011.

It said emerging destinations continued to lead the way while Europe recovered at a slower pace.

"Although recovery is still lagging in parts of Europe and the Americas, many destinations are already showing real growth and setting new records.

"Asia and the Pacific has once again shown resilience and a strong capacity for recovery."

The region posted 14-percent growth in international arrivals through August 2010.

It also noted strong growth in the Middle East, which was up 16 percent, and in Africa, up 9.0 percent, helped by the worldwide publicity of World Cup hosted by South Africa.

"These results reinforce the message that we have been underscoring since the outbreak of the global crisis at the end of 2008 -- that tourism is one of the most dynamic economic sectors and a key driver in creating much needed growth and employment," the statement quoted UNWTO Secretary-General as saying.

"Tourism has been seriously impacted by the global crisis, but less than other export sectors, and is currently rebounding faster and more robustly."

© 2010 AFP

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