MADRID, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- A senior official with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said here Tuesday the developing world was leading the recovery in world tourism.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Xinhua on the eve of the 31st International Tourism Fair in Madrid, UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai detailed the current state of world tourism.
Tourism in 2010 had enjoyed a good year with 7 percent of growth, after the economic crisis reduced numbers of travelers in 2009, he said.
"The results we have just announced show that 2010 was the year of recovery, 7 percent of global growth was impressive," Rifai told Xinhua.
He said the growth had not been evenly spread around the world.
"We have done well, but we have not done that in an even way: there were varying speeds of recovery. China, India, Malaysia and Korea led the growth," Rifai said, highlighting the role of developing nations.
"As in the overall economic scenario, it is clear that the developing counties are gaining steady and continuous market share. China, probably this year, will become number three in the world in terms of tourism arrivals. It is already a very strong outbound destination, so the emerging economies are leading the way," he said.
Rifai also highlighted the importance of tourism to smaller countries in the developing world.
"Even small country destinations are performing well. Tourism is proving to be one of the few options in their economy, compared with other kinds of economic activity available to other countries," he said.
One of the increasing trends in recent years had been the growth in eco-tourism, which would play a huge role in the future, Rifai said.
"The issues concerning climate change and the environment have gained tremendous momentum in the past few years and have been reflected in the tourist industry. Travelers are becoming more conscious and responsible," he said.
"It is not just about being responsible towards the environment because we are good citizens, but because it is also good business. You are going to see more and more destinations focusing on the environment, not only because that is the way we should preserve our assets, but because it is the right way for business in the future," he told Xinhua.
The increasing number of visitors to developing countries could damage tourism sites, but these problems could be resolved by good management, Rifai said.
"Destination management, site management and crowd management are going to be the challenges for the future. Whether we like it or not, people are traveling all over the world and we should not deny anyone the right to come and visit interesting sites, but to do that in a responsible way that does not affect the site," he said.