Egypt may be the country with the fastest sinking tourism-- not counting Syria and Mali-- but tourism in unlikely countries you probably never thought of going to is supposedly growing fast. Market Watch has a business report on 10 countries with rapidly growing tourism sectors. I've never been to any of them, other than Montenegro for an hour by accident once-- although I have always wanted to go to the "Stans," at least in theory.
Kyrgyzstan and Belarus might not immediately come to mind as hot spring break options. Or vacation destinations, period, for that matter. Yet they’re among the countries with the fastest-growing tourism industries, according to a new report from the World Travel & Tourism Council. The group made the calculation based on where total travel and tourism revenues, as a contribution to gross domestic product, grew fastest in 2012... Here are 10 destinations where tourism saw big leaps in 2012:
Nearly two-thirds of its tourism revenue stems from business travel, but Qatar, on the Arabian Peninsula’s northeastern coast, saw leisure travel rise 29.9% last year, reports the WTTC. Spending by foreign visitors increased 36.7% to $6.4 billion-- the third-biggest jump worldwide-- and contributed to 23.6% growth in travel and tourism. “Qatar is definitely on people’s radar in a way it hasn’t been before,” says Saglie. It’s marketing itself more as a destination for leisure travelers, touting luxury hotels as well as attractions including beaches, museums and souks.
The country’s tourism ministry has beefed up its efforts to attract visitors, announcing in 2011 that it was offering more training for local hoteliers and other industry professionals, and putting more resources toward tourism. The effect was noticeable in 2012, helped by “calmer political seas” in the area, says Taylor Cole, a spokeswoman for Hotels.com. Spending by foreign tourists visiting the former Soviet state-- which edges the Caspian Sea in Eastern Europe and Western Asia-- jumped 56.4% in 2012, to $2.3 billion. Overall, travel and tourism spending rose 22.8%, to 2.2% GDP, according to WTTC-- and this year, another 9.3% in growth is expected.
Last year, the Central Asian country began allowing citizens of 44 countries to visit for up to 60 days without first obtaining a visa, aiming to get more tourists for its high-altitude mountain lakes, mountain-climbing tours and other attractions. Among the effects: Tourism employment rose 24.8%, according to the WTTC, and spending by foreign visitors grew 34.5% to $694.6 million. Overall, travel and tourism increased 21.6% in 2012, to 3% of the total GDP, according to WTTC.
Slow to recover after the Kosovo War and the breakup of Yugoslavia, Montenegro could well be a top tourist destination in a few years, experts say. The Southeastern European country is becoming well known among tourists as an adventure and eco-travel spot, and more cruise lines have added its Adriatic beaches as a stop on Mediterranean itineraries. “It’s a huge comeback,” says Matt Wallaert, a travel expert at Bing. In 2012, travel and tourism increased 12.6%, to 9.9% of GDP. (For perspective, travel and tourism makes up just 2.8% of the United States’ GDP.) For 2013, the WTTC expects growth of another 13.3%.
This Central Asian country’s emerging tourism economy has benefitted from the adventure-travel trend, says Lamoureux. Travel and tourism grew 11.7% in 2012, according to WTTC, and foreign visitors’ spending rose 32.5%-- the fifth-biggest increase worldwide. “More and more travelers are looking for some kind of soft or hard adventure,” she says. That might mean wandering the bazaars and staying in a yurt, or more adventurous mountain climbing and heli-skiing.
Another young tourism economy, this small Eastern European country benefits from regional traffic (mostly Russians) to its ski resorts in the winter, and lakefront resorts in the summer. Travel and tourism grew 11% in 2012, to 2.1% of GDP, according to WTTC. Spending by foreign tourists rose 39.7%-- the second-biggest jump worldwide-- to $960 million. It’s also known as a gambling destination.
A booming economy has fueled hotels and airlines in Central America’s southernmost country, with spending on tourism-related structures and equipment contributing to Panama’s 10.5% growth of travel and tourism, to 5.2% of GDP, according to the WTTC. “There’s a lot of construction and development on the ground,” says Saglie. “Travel will follow naturally from that activity.” Those hoteliers and airlines are also offering more sales to fill rooms and seats with tourists interested in hiking, whitewater rafting and, of course, traversing from the Caribbean to the Pacific via the Panama Canal.
Experts say there’s plenty to extol about the Southeast Asia island nation: “The people are friendly, the food is great-- it’s one of those places that hasn’t been overrun with tourists,” says Wallaert. But it’s the locals who are spending the most on travel. While travel and tourism spending rose 10.4% in 2012, to 2% of the GDP, a little less than 40% of spending comes from foreign visitors, reports to the WTTC. Some islands are more travel-suitable than others, he says. (The U.S. State Department issued a warning earlier this year, urging citizens to avoid nonessential travel to the Philippines’s Sulu Archipelago due to terrorism-linked violence there.)
Even before Disney announced this year that a new “Star Wars” film is in the works, tourism to this North African country was on an upswing. (In addition to Tunisia’s beaches and archaeological sites, a major attraction is Tatouine, home to sets for the Star Wars franchise’s fictional planet Tatooine.) Spending by foreign tourists grew 22.9%-- the ninth-biggest increase worldwide-- to $2.7 billion. Overall, travel and tourism grew 10.3%, to 7.3% of GDP, according to the WTTC. Prices have gone up too. Gammarth, an oceanfront suburb of capital Tunis, saw hotel prices rise 59% last year to $463, according to Hotels.com. That was the fourth greatest price increase worldwide, says Taylor.
Seven climate zones encompassing natural features, including fjords, deserts and the Andes, have helped the South American country push itself as a major adventure and ecotourism destination, says Saglie. Yet, just 17.7% of spending is from foreign visitors, perhaps in part due to expensive airfare and a dollar that’s a bit weaker against the Chilean peso. It’s Chilean travel and spending that accounts for much of the growth. A booming economy prompted a 15% increase in citizens’ spending on travel abroad in 2012, according to WTTC. Overall, travel and tourism spending rose 10.3%, to 2.9% of GDP.