One billion tourists around the world this year ... How many will Haiti get?
Two thought-provoking items landed in my in-box on Monday within minutes of each other. To be honest, I'm not sure I can do them justice.
The first story was an Al Jazeera piece about how the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is predicting ONE BILLION international tourists across the globe this year.
It wasn't that long ago that making a trip out of one's own province was a pretty big deal. Hard to imagine now, in an age where kids jet off to India or Sweden or England for months of university study, then backpack about the world without batting an eyelash.
The UNWTO report says international tourist arrivals were up to 980 million last year, an increase from 939 million in 2010. They predict the 1 billion mark will be smashed by November as tourism is expected to slow a bit this year.
Europe was the best performer in 2011, growing by six per cent and luring a whopping 503 million visitors. The report said some growth in southern Europe came because folks were avoiding parts of the Middle East and North Africa, which were suffering political and social problems. The Middle East, not surprisingly, was down eight per cent in tourism.
Asia and the Pacific visits were up 11 per cent to 216 million international tourists, with the most growth seen in South-East Asia (cheap prices, great beaches and more).
The Americas overall were up four per cent, led by a 10 per cent hike (for the second straight year) for South America.
Receipts and spending in the U.S. were up 12 per cent for 2011, even before they launch their big, global campaign in March of this year to attract more overseas visitors. Hong Kong spending jumped 25 per cent, while Spain was up nine per cent and the UK up seven per cent, the report said.
Big spenders around the globe included visitors from China (up 38 per cent), Brazil (32 per cent increase), India (ditto) and Russia (21 per cent), which is why American President Barack Obama was at Disney World the other day talking about making it even easier for folks from China, Brazil and other countries to get tourist visas for U.S. visits.
I didn't spot any figures for Canada, sad to say ...
HAITI DREAMING OF TOURISTS
Good item in the Washington Post the other day on how folks in Haiti are, understandably, desperate for tourism dollars. They went so far tthe other day as to bring in New York fashion designer Donna Karan of DKNY.
"We're trying to rebrand Haiti," said tourism minister Stephanie Balmir Villedrouin. "We're trying to raise the bar a little bit, and so we're bringing Donna here to help us with our vision."
Jacmel (see photo) apparently was a pretty big deal in the late 1800s and some say the old town reminds them of the French Quarter in New Orleans.
Karan had her fall catalogue photos taken at the Hotel Florita in Jacmel. Manoir Alexandre, the most prominent building in town according to the Post, is being restored by an orthopedic surgeon from New York of Haitian descent.
It sounds promising. They certainly could use the help down there. But I've seen former U.S. President Bill Clinton arguing for more tourism in Haiti, too, and those arguments don't seem to have borne fruit.