WASHINGTON -- The U.S. fell to third place in international tourism
arrivals in 1998 for what was said to be the first time since the
World Tourism Organization began tracking the statistics in 1980.
Spain knocked the U.S. out of the No. 2 spot, with 47.7 million
visitors to the U.S.'s 47.1 million. France stayed in first
Spain's arrivals jumped 10%, more than four times the world
average, thanks to the strong British pound and the country's
proximity to the World Cup in France and the World's Fair in
Portugal, the WTO said.
Meanwhile, U.S. arrivals fell 1.3% because of fewer tourists
from Asia, Mexico and Canada. The WTO and the Travel Industry
Association placed the blame for the U.S. downturn partly on the
lack of a functioning national tourism organization.
Countries with a central body coordinating promotion can be more
flexible in adapting to changes in world conditions, as Australia
did in shifting its marketing efforts from Asia to Europe and the
U.S., WTO spokeswoman Deborah Luhrman said.
WTO figures for 1998 also showed international tourism overcame
the economic troubles in Asia to post a 2.4% gain to 625 million
arrivals in 1998. Tourism receipts, excluding air fares, grew 2%,
to nearly $445 billion.
Other WTO findings:In East Asia and the Pacific, arrivals fell 1.2%, and revenue
fell nearly 4%.Africa's arrivals jumped 7.5%, thanks to solid increases in
nature-based tourism to southern Africa and European beach travel
to northern Africa.Middle East arrivals climbed 5.3%, led by Jordan and
Lebanon.Europe grew 3% in arrivals and 3.6% in receipts.