Tuesday 19 January 2016

Tourism: Hazards and opportunities

Tourism is leading the world out of recession. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, international tourist arrivals grew by 4.4% in 2015 to 1,184 million. An increase of 50 million tourists compared to 2014 figures.

Tourism currently creates 9% of the world’s gross domestic product and also accounts for 9% of total employment. As a sector it grew faster than the conventional economic power houses such as Finance, Retailing and Manufacturing.

In Britain, the International passenger survey suggests that overseas trips by UK residents have reached 63 million, a significant improvement from the numbers generated in 2010. However not everyone has benefited.

Countries with a warm climate and attractive scenery rely on tourism for a major proportion of their annual revenue. They need a regular supply of tourists from wealthier nations with cold and uncertain weather. These affluent tourists have an abundance of choice. Discerning tourists select from a shortlist of countries based on factors such as type of holiday desired, price, distance, convenience of airport and flight times. Then they consider whether the destination is desirable and unique rather than merely acceptable and ubiquitous.

Overseas tourist boards must communicate their advantages. However pressure on the domestic front has led to dramatic falls in advertising in the countries who supply these visitors. Advertising spends have dropped from £45 million in Britain to £16 million, when a longer term view suggests a greater effort should be made to retain and even grow the number of guests.

Then there is the safety issue. The world appears a more dangerous place as terror attacks in Indonesia, Egypt and France indicate. The complexity of the reasoning and randomness of the attacks make prevention difficult particularly in countries with porous borders, high unemployment and disaffection amongst the young.
Tunisia has suffered particularly. The UK foreign office warns: 

“Further terrorist attacks remain highly likely including against foreigners”.

Tour operators have been diverting their customers away from Egypt towards Spain, Florida and Mexico.

For countries in the risk zone, greater security, surveillance, rapid response units and the active co-operation of its citizens is essential. These days with mobile phones, everyone has the opportunity to record suspicious behaviour.

Other countries need also exercise caution, but must make a strong case to attract tourists. Otherwise they will not benefit from the growth in worldwide tourism.   

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