Turmoil in some countries in the region meant the Middle East saw a 10 per cent drop in tourist arrivals, while North Africa experienced a 9 per cent decline in the first two months of the year, the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) reported today.
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Despite this, international tourist arrivals grew by almost five per cent in the first two months of the year as the industry continued its rebound, reaching more than 124 million arrivals, compared to about 118.5 million in the same period last year, the UNWTO said.
"Although recent developments in North Africa and the Middle East and the terrible events in Japan will affect the results of their respective regions, overall growth in international tourism should not be significantly impacted," said Taleb Rifai, the UNWTO secretary general.
The organisation is still forecasting growth of 4 to 5 per cent for international tourism arrivals this year.
"The fall in demand in Tunisia, Egypt and Japan is expected to have bottomed out, and the recovery of these important destinations will surely be consolidated during the year," Mr Rifai said.
Amid regional unrest, countries including Egypt and Tunisia experienced sharp falls in tourism as travel warnings were issued by authorities and tour operators cancelled holidays and repatriated customers.
Although the beginnings of recovery in business to resorts located in the Red Sea in Egypt, the city hotels in places including Cairo are still struggling, hoteliers say.
Europe achieved a 6 per cent increase in tourist arrivals in the first two months of the year, the UNWTO said. This was helped by a redistribution of tourists who would have visited countries in the Middle East and North Africa hit by unrest and opted to visit the Mediterranean and southern Europe instead, according to the UNWTO.
In Dubai and Abu Dhabi hotels have reported an improvement in occupancy levels, partly helped by diverted travel flows because of unrest in other parts of the region.
But Abu Dhabi National Hotels (ADNH), which owns properties including the Sofitel hotel on Jumeirah Beach Residence in Dubai and Le Meridien and Hilton hotels in Abu Dhabi, as well as having a catering division, ADNHCompass, and a transport company, today reported a decline in net profits of more than half to Dh83 million compared to Dh170m in the same period last year.