As global tourism looks set to rebound in 2010, the Middle East and Asia Pacific regions are being credited for contributing to this upwards swing.
UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Secretary-General Taleb Rifai made the announcement, saying arivals were down six per cent in the Middle East, but the region, "though still far from the growth levels of previous years, had a positive second half".
He added: "On a regional basis, Europe and North America are lagging, Asia and the Middle East are pushing ahead."
The Asia-Pacific region, where tourism was down two per cent, "showed an extraordinary rebound" that is expected to continue in 2010, the UNWTO report said.
The report also said that Africa had "bucked the trend" with growth of five per cent, and the World Cup in South Africa this summer would give a further boost to the region.
Europe ended 2009 down six per cent "after a very complicated first half, with destinations in central, eastern and northern Europe particularly badly hit," said the report.
In the Americas, where arrivals were off five per cent, the Caribbean returned to growth in the last four months of 2009.
Overall, the report said international tourist arrivals fell by an estimated four per cent in 2009, to 880 million, but should recover to grow by three to four per cent in 2010.
Rifai said a slump due to the global economic crisis was "aggravated by the uncertainty around the AH1N1 pandemic."
"The results of recent months suggest that recovery is underway, and even somewhat earlier and at a stronger pace than initially expected," said the head of the Madrid-based organisation.
But he warned that "a premature withdrawal" of stimulus measures by governments and "the temptation to impose extra taxes may jeopardise the pace of rebound in tourism."
The UNWTO report said tourism receipts were down six per cent in 2009, but noted that this compares with a 12 per cent slump in overall exports as a result of the global crisis.
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