WTO Forecasts One Billion Tourists for 2012

The number of international tourists in the world increased by 4% in 2011 over the previous year, to 980 million, indicating that this year figures will reach one billion, according to the secretary general of the World Tourism Organization (WTO), Taleb Rifai.

In a recent interview with Spanish News Agency, Efe, Rifai defined 2011 as a “good year” for tourism, despite the difficulties and challenges faced by virtually all the economic sectors in the world, especially in Europe and North America.

At the end of last year the increase in tourist arrivals was slightly below the initial 5% growth forecast of the WTO, reaching 4.5%. According to Cinco Dias, Rifai said that, despite a further economic downturn, especially in Europe, he hoped this year to consolidate the results of the last two years, with an increase of over 3%, which would mean a rise of 7% over 2010.

Europe already surprised everyone in 2011 exceeding all expectations, and even countries with problems such as Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain registered increases of 14%, 13%, 10% and 8% respectively.

Given the results achieved in Europe, Rifai ruled out changes in the global ranking of tourist destinations, where Spain is in fourth place, but pointed to possible movements, though not major, in the list of main issuing markets such as China, Russia and Brazil.

As far as Spain is concerned, he stressed that tourism revenues surged in 2011 even more than the arrivals, making the sector one of the most important in terms of economic growth and job creation.

Rifai believes the trend will continue during 2012, thanks to Spain’s ability to innovate and create new products, and the political will demonstrated by the new government to raise the position of tourism in the national agenda.

The Spanish tourism policy is moving “in the right direction,” and Spanish tourism is a “success story”, he stated, congratulating Spain in the year the number tourists is set to reach one billion worldwide, and also in the year Spain is to host World Tourism Day (September 27, 2012).