afrol News, 20 March - Year 2001 was a disaster for world tourism, which sharply dropped after the 11 September attack on the US. Recovery is however already underway, the Madrid-based World Tourism Organisation notes. In Africa, the generally negative 2001 numbers were more than counterweighted by an increase in tourism in Morocco and Tunisia.
Global tourist arrivals in 2001 had "slumped by 1.3 percent to 688 million, the only significant decrease since World War II," according to a release by the organisation, but world "tourism in January and February was significantly stronger than in November and December." The organisation's Secretary-General, Francesco Frangialli, further says he expects "a staggered recovery to take place" in Europe, Africa, and the Mediterranean between July and September.
Not all parts of the world had had negative trends in 2001, however. Tourism to the Mediterranean region showed a small growth of 0.7 percent in 2001. While growth was highest in Croatia, Turkey and Slovenia, also Morocco and Tunisia noted a positive trend. Tourism grew by 3 percent in Morocco in 2001, while Tunisia was on track for an increase of 6 percent at the end of November.
Of course, growth rates seemed even more positive before the 11 September attacks. Morocco had noted an increase of 7.6 percent in international arrivals between January and August. The growth in Tunisia was even set at 14.1 percent during the same period.
While the overall picture in Morocco was positive in 2001, there were significant local differences. Classic charter resorts such as Agadir had a very positive development. Cultural resorts, such as the historical capital Fez, also a Muslim centre, were strongly affected by 11 September. In November, visits to Fez were down 45 percent and in January, they were still 25 percent lower than usual. Thousands of workers in Fez, including taxi drivers, hotel staff and local craftsman, reportedly are affected by the crisis.
Also in Tunisia, the picture is confusing in spite of positive national statistics. The trends in the first months of 2002 allegedly have not been not encouraging at all. The Tunisian tourism industry claims that business is down up to 40 percent compared to the beginning of 2001. This has not been verified by statistics, however.
- The health of the tourism sector is very closely tied to stability in the region, says Tunisian Tourism Minister Mondher Zenaidi. "Any form of extremism or terrorism goes against our values, so we must work together to get tourism back on its feet."
Not surprisingly, the great losers in the Mediterranean region during 2001 were Israel and Egypt. In Israel, arrivals were down 50 percent and in Egypt 15.6 percent.
Sources: Based on WTO, press reports and afrol archives