ECONOMY

Good times for tourism

Recent data from the World Tourism Organization (WTO) runs counter to the widespread belief that Greece is an expensive tourist destination compared to Turkey. With the two countries attracting, for the first time, a roughly equal number of tourists (about 12 million) in 2003, Turkey’s revenue from tourism was $13.2 billion compared to $10.7 billion for Greece. Both Greece and Turkey are among the top 10 countries in terms of tourist revenues. Topping the list are the United States ($65.1 billion), Spain ($41.7 billion) and France ($36.6 billion), followed by Italy, Germany, Great Britain, China, Austria, Turkey and Greece. The most popular destinations, by number of visitors, are France (75 million), Spain (52 million), the US (40.4 million), Italy (39.6 million), China (33 million), Great Britain (24.8 million), Austria (19.1 million), Mexico (18.7 million), Germany (18.4 million) and Canada (17.5 million). Data from the first quarter of 2004 indicates a global recovery in tourism, a trend which began toward the end of 2003. WTO’s Barometer report published at the end of last month said that tourists’ confidence was recovering despite continued, sporadic, terrorist attacks. «Positive economic results and the prospects shown by the largest tourism markets lead to the conclusion that all the prerequisites for an increase in demand exist,» the report says. The Barometer predicts that the May-August period will be especially good for the European tourism market and remarks that even events such as the March 11 terrorist attacks on Madrid did not dampen growth. In Spain, tourism growth in the first five months of the year was up 3.8 percent and other important tourist destinations in Europe showed a similar trend. Concerning the Mediterranean region, the Barometer focuses on Cyprus and Turkey, saying they expect a significant rise in visitors. After a difficult 2003, affected primarily by the war in Iraq, Cyprus has registered an 11 percent rise in visitors over the first five months of 2004. Turkey has witnessed a rise of 50 percent for the first four months of the year. Italy also saw its number of visitors rise 18 percent in the first two months, while Portugal saw a 6 percent rise in earnings, despite a 4 percent drop in visitors during the same period. Of course, Portugal was expected to more than make up with a huge influx of visitors during Euro 2004. However, the great gainer was France, which has absorbed a great part of the recovery in long-distance travel and which remains the preferred destination of American, Japanese and Chinese tourists. In northern Europe, the UK saw tourism revenues increase 15 percent during the first four months of the year, thanks to a great influx of tourists from North America, while Germany saw its number of visitors increase 10 percent during the same period, while revenues went up just 3 percent. The greatest increase in visitors has been to east Asian and Pacific countries, which had been hit hard last year by the effects of the SARS disease. Countries such as China, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore have seen the number of visitors rise 15 percent. Some of these destinations saw a 100 percent increase during April alone. Contrary to expectations, the Middle East market was the only region where tourism revenues increased in 2003 compared to 2002. The increase has been sustained in early 2004: Jordan and Dubai saw a 10 percent increase in the number of visitors and Egypt saw a 70 percent increase in May. Domestic tourism is thriving, but the rise in foreign tourists is attributed to better services and marketing and, for Egypt, a depreciated currency.