Middle East: Global tourism winner

The Middle East was one of the biggest winners in the global tourism market last year, according to the World Tourism Organisation.

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By  Neil Denslow Published  March 7, 2004

The Middle East was one of the biggest winners in the global tourism market last year, according to the World Tourism Organisation (WTO). By contrast, America lost out, as the fear of terrorism and heightened security measures meant that tourists from the Middle East and elsewhere preferred to stay in their own region rather than travel to the US. The WTO report also suggested that holiday patterns are changing with many people now preferring to make lat minute bookings online and travelling locally rather than booking long distance trips months in advance. The rise of low-cost carriers, especially in the UK, has also helped fuel this trend. Ryanair and easyJet captured 30% of outbound traffic from the UK in 2003 compared to just 11% three years earlier. The strong Euro and weak dollar and pound has also had an impact on traffic with British tourists, heading for non-Euro countries such as Turkey and Croatia rather than traditional destinations like Spain and Italy. This helped cause a 3% drop in tourist volume in Western Europe compared to the high of 2000, the second worst affected region. The biggest drop was seen in North America were there 17% drop in tourists compared to 2000. The United States, the WTO report said, "is still seriously struggling to overcome the impact of Sept. 11 and the subsequent war on terrorism." By contrast, the Middle East had a very strong 2003 with 30.4 million international arrivals, up around 10% on 2002’s figure of 27.6 million. This traffic was largely generated by intra-Arab travel, with people choosing to holiday within the Middle East rather than travel elsewhere. The WTO said that these travellers were deterred by "envisaged difficulties in travelling to the Americas for political reasons and to Europe in view of the strong euro."

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