A Review of Global Tourism 2016
The year 2016 will be remembered as a tumultuous year in the history of tourism. It’s been a year in which tourism has made some very strong advances but also a year in which some destinations and businesses have faced significant challenges.
On the plus side the number of international tourists keep advancing. In 2016 the number of international tourists is expected to top 1.2 billion. China, and the broader Asia-Pacific region generally is leading the way as the most rapidly advancing tourism generating region. The growing middle classes of India, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia are all contributing to the Asia-Pacific growth.
Terrorism has continued to target tourists in 2016. Terrorist attacks targeting tourists and tourism infrastructure in Turkey, Belgium, France and Thailand have impacted on tourism to those countries. Turkey, where several attacks occurred this year experienced a 36% downturn in the number of international tourists during 2016 compared to 2015.
Ongoing political violence and instability in the Middle East has placed a break on tourism recovery throughout much of that region although destinations such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Oman continue to prosper. Despite facing the challenge of the Zika virus and intense media scrutiny of its national crime rate and other social problems, Brazil successfully hosted the 2016 Olympic Games and hopes for a post Olympic tourism boost. Zika became the health threat of 2016 and is now present in over 50 countries.
One trend which has become apparent in 2016 is the speed in which tourism destination and businesses recover from crisis. In late April 2015 Nepal was reeling from the impact of the Ghorka earthquake. As 2016 comes to an end, Nepal is well on the road to tourism recovery thanks to the determination of its people, especially its tourism professionals and strategic use of social media and e marketing.
The accommodation sector is coming to terms with the growing challenge posed by the spectacular growth of Air BnB and in order to answer its critics Air BnB is adapting the management of its properties pitched to the business travel market to take into account duty of care responsibilities.
In 2016 safety has emerged as the main selling and marketing point for travel and tourism. Destinations and tourism businesses which are deemed safe have enjoyed strong growth in 2016. Mobile technological developments have been embraced by the tourism industry and tourism businesses have made incredible progress in individualizing products and services for leisure and business travelers.
Low fuel prices during 2016 has enabled most of the world’s leading airlines to maintain low fare levels and run profitably. In fact the entire transport sector has been able to benefit from low crude oil prices during 2016. High speed rail, cruising, coaches and aviation all enjoyed strong growth during the year.
One niche sector of the tourism market which received a lot of attention in 2016 is the accessible tourism market. According to Professor Simon Darcy from the University of Technology-Sydney, tourists with disabilities (permanent or temporary) account for about 10% of tourists and those travel businesses and destinations which can effectively provide accessible tourist services and facilities stand to gain.
Two of the big political surprises of 2016, the UK’s vote in favor of Brexit and the USA’s election of Donald Trump as President, have been the subject of intense speculation about their impact on the global economy and tourism. I learned many years ago not to attempt to become a fortune teller so more on these in 2017.
This will be my last column for 2016, I have decided to be tourist for a couple of weeks rather than just write about it. I will be back in 2017.
Please accept my best wishes for the festive season of 2016 and happy new year for 2017.
Thanks to the thousands of you who have read my column this year without sending any rude tweets in response. Thanks also to Jonathan Harris and the ETB Travel News team for giving me the opportunity to share stories of Global Tourism with you.