The current global economic slowdown brought the growth of international tourism to a standstill in 2008 and threatens to reverse the historic four year gains made by the industry in foreign travel, a UN agency report said.
Although international tourist arrivals reached 924 million in 2008, up 16 million from 2007 or a two per cent overall increase, growth stagnated in the second half of last year, hitting Europe the hardest, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) report said.
International travel to Asia also decreased by three per cent in the second half of 2008 after double digit growth in 2007 and a six per cent increase in the first part of 2008.
The collapse of financial markets, sharp increases in commodity and oil prices and volatile exchange rate fluctuations combined to force a one per cent decline in international travel in the six months from July, a trend that is expected to continue in 2009.
A three per cent drop in international arrivals across Europe after June meant the continent was the only region to experience stagnation over the whole year, reported the January 2009 issue of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.
On the other hand, the Americas were up one per cent overall; Africa up four per cent; and the Middle East five per cent.
The report forecasts continued stagnation or decline for this year and beyond, but notes that the high degree of economic uncertainty makes predictions of international travel difficult.