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International tourism on the rebound

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Worldwide international tourism arrivals are back at pre-GFC levels, according to the United Nations World Trade Organization World Tourism Barometer. The UNWTO recorded 642 million arrivals worldwide, around 40 million more than the same period last year, representing overall growth of 7 percent, and predicts figures for 2010 will top previous records. Emerging destinations led the surge, with Asia and the Pacific first to rebound from the 2009 crisis and Europe and the Americas recovering more slowly. Growth was also strong in the Middle East at 16 percent and Africa, the only region to post growth in tourism in 2009, at 9 percent, boosted by publicity generated by the FIFA World Football Cup held in South Africa in July. The impact of the ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano limited overall growth in international arrivals to just 2 percent for April, and recovery in Europe remains at less than 5 percent in most regions. In the Americas South America is on a par with the world average at 7 percent and North America at 9 percent, but the Caribbean recorded just 3 percent. UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rfai said governments worldwide should increase their focus on tourism in recognition of the sector’s contribution to economic recovery, employment and development. Factors threatening recovery include budget constraints to balance public deficits and unemployment, which the International Labour Organization warned may continue to 2015. UNWTO’s statistics point to tourism as a key sector since it generates more jobs faster than other industries. "In spite of tourism’s proven contribution to the economy there has been an increased temptation to introduce and increase taxation on travel, particularly on air transport, Rfai said. "These impediments seriously affect our capacity to generate jobs and stimulate economic growth through export earnings."

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