Pisa Forum confirms that the recovery could start within 12 months
The financial crisis and the recession have clearly reached the international travel markets. Many airlines and tour operators have meanwhile reduced capacity for 2009. The majority of the experts gathered in Pisa believe that demand for international travel will be down by about 1% in 2009. But they also think that the crisis will not last longer than 12 to 18 months.
Some parts of the world may start to see the beginning of a revival in 2009, the Forum agreed, but, given the lack of clarity regarding the main drivers of the crisis and its impact on disposable incomes – not to mention continuing uncertainties over the price of oil, currency fluctuations, etc – the recovery of tourism demand may prove rather more elusive. This explains the view of the majority of the Pisa participants that the world will only see a strong recovery of travel and tourism in 2010, accelerating to new records in 2011 and 2012.
These were some of the key messages to come out of the two days of intensive discussions between world tourism experts at the 16th edition of what has become more commonly known as the Pisa Forum. As usual, it was organised by IPK International, founders and producers of the World Travel Monitor, and sponsored by ITB Berlin.
Based on trends over the first eight months of 2008 from the region’s leading outbound travel source markets, Europe recorded a growth of 3% in both number of trips and foreign overnight volume. But the overall monthly average fell from +6% in January to April to just +1% in May to August, reflecting the impact of the credit crunch, high oil prices and the financial crisis on demand.
The leading European outbound markets in terms of growth were Russia (+15%) and Finland (+9%), with Norway and Spain coming a distant third in the overall ranking (each up 3%). The only market in Europe to suffer an outbound decline, meanwhile, was France (-4%).
Although the trend appears to have reversed since the end of the summer, European corporate travel – including trips for meetings and conferences – grew by twice the rate of holiday travel (+8% compared with +4% for holidays) from January through August, while other types of leisure trips, include visits to friends and relations, declined by 5%.
Outbound travel from other leading and emerging markets has shown similar trends in 2008 to those in Europe – in particular, a shift to short-haul from long-haul travel, a reduction in secondary trips, and a modest decline in low-cost/no-frills air travel in favour of trips by different means of surface transport.
With the exception of travel to Mexico (+5.6% through the month of July), US outbound air travel was at best flat in the first five months of 2008, but it fell by more than 4% to Europe and nearly 5% to Canada. Thanks in no small part to the low US dollar – in the first eight months of 2008, at least – Canadian outbound travel, on the other hand, was buoyant (+13%).
Travel from Latin American markets has been strong so far this year, especially from Brazil and Argentina, although growth is expected to slow in the last few months of the year, especially given the depreciation of the Brazilian real.
In Asia, in contrast – one of the world’s strongest outbound travel growth regions in 2007 – there have been some disappointing performances, exacerbated by the reduced airline capacity on many routes, the tightened security surrounding the summer Olympics in Beijing (which made visas more difficult to obtain and discouraged travel to China) and by the increased price of travel and cost of living. IPK International expects the region to record around 3% growth in outbound trips for the year as a whole – half the rate recorded in 2007 – with no growth or declines from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
Details of trends from leading and emerging markets in the first eight months of 2008, as well forecasts for 2009 and an analysis of some of the opportunities and threats identified by the Pisa Forum participants, will be available from the ITB World Travel Trends Report prepared by IPK, to be published in mid-November by ITB Berlin. The report can be downloaded from .
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