Tourism will undoubtedly be affected by the events of 11 September in the United States, compounding the economic downturn that was already under way, but long-term prospects for the industry remain extremely positive: this was the main message from an international meeting of travel and tourism policy experts at OECD on 24 October. The negative impact will be visible mostly in the US and in those markets that depend on US visitors. US air traffic is down sharply, and transatlantic traffic is estimated to be down by as much as 30% on some routes. According to IATA figures, international aviation travel was on a declining trend anyway in 2001, in line with the economic situation. Moreover, traffic was extremely buoyant during the late 1990s and 2000, so any drop was bound to be marked. (In 2000 there were some 61 million outbound trips made by Americans, up by 6% compared with 1999.) Also, tourism within other regions, such as Europe, is expected to remain quite buoyant, if falling a little in line with the economic downturn.
World Travel and Tourism Council forecasts after 11 September point to a decline in tourism of some 10-20% in the United States, and less in other markets. The absence of US visitors will be widely felt: the top destinations of US visitors in 2000 were the UK, France and Germany, although nearly a third of this was business travel. US travellers – 40% of whom flew out of New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco – spent an average $1 345 abroad on each trip. Several countries at the OECD meeting reported candidly on the short-term challenges they now face. France, for instance, is not underestimating the problem: its tourism ministry has set up a Crisis Management Unit to monitor the economic and social impacts on everything from hotels and hostels to museums and car rental.
Despite the poor short term, experts at the meeting emphasised that tourism would remain a major growth area in OECD countries. For tourism policy, the main immediate priority is to restore consumer confidence and to consolidate the image of tourist destinations through appropriate promotion campaigns, experts said.
For more information, contact Alain.Dupeyras@oecd.org
©OECD Observer No 229, November 2001