European tourism arrivals expanded six percent year-on-year in the first eight months of 2011, the latest UNWTO data has shown.
The pace of growth was above expectations, and ahead of the global average tourism growth of 4.5 percent. Contrary to the trend in recent years, growth in arrivals was higher in advanced economies (+4.9 percent) than in emerging ones (+4.0 percent), due largely to the strong results in Europe. In Northern Europe (+7 percent) and Central and Eastern Europe (+8 percent), recovery from 2009 gained momentum this year. Southern European destinations (+8 percent) benefited from the shift of travel away from the Middle East and North Africa.
Contrasting with growing economic uncertainty, EU destinations (+6 percent) benefitted strongly from this growth, bringing some relief for those destinations facing major economic challenges. These include Greece (+14 percent), Ireland (+13 percent), Portugal (+11 percent) or Spain (+8 percent).
“Despite current volatility, international tourism is proving to be an important economic driver for many European economies, bringing much needed foreign exchange and helping to ease the pressure on their balance of payments,” said UNWTO secretary-general, Taleb Rifai. “UNWTO encourages European governments to support tourism and consider the sector as one that can back economic recovery given its capacity to distribute wealth and create jobs across the region,” he added.