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Millions of Tourist-Related Jobs Lost, says ILO - 2003-02-01

A report by the International Labor Organization says millions of jobs in world tourism have been lost due to political turmoil, the global economic downturn and growing unease among many travelers. The ILO says it does not expect a rebound in employment before 2005.

The International Labor Organization says one in 12 people working in tourism-related businesses have lost their jobs since the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001. Globally, that comes to 6.6 million people. The report says tourist hotels had been suffering from a general economic downturn that began in early 2001, before the shock wave of the September 11 attacks. Hampering recovery are fears of more terrorist attacks and the possibility of a war in Iraq.

The author of the report, Dirk Belau, says it is difficult to recover jobs in tourism once they are lost. "Jobs once lost in an industry like the tourism industry will not easily be restituted, because enterprises increase their productivity once they had to dismiss workers, and they do not need as many workers in the future as they used in the past for the same type of service," he said.

The report says the heaviest losses were felt in the Middle East and the Americas, particularly the United States. It says international tourist arrivals in the United States were down by 30 percent following the terrorist attacks.

Mr. Belau says changing tastes among travelers also are affecting tourism. He says sea, sand and sun vacations are going out of fashion, and travel to faraway exotic places also is losing its charm. "They change their habits and travel less far," said Dirk Belau. "They stay in their own country, or go to a neighboring country. Perhaps to avoid air transport, but also for economic reasons, they tend to spend less, and they tend to spend less time and money in their destination, so, all this contributes to difficulties in the tourism industry to recover in terms of income."

The report says tourism dropped off sharply in Australia and Egypt, and big declines also were registered in European countries such as Switzerland, Germany and Austria, traditionally popular with Americans. Some countries, however, showed increases in tourism, such as cheap destination countries in southern Europe - Croatia, Cyprus and Turkey.

Another big winner was China, which has registered impressive growth in both domestic and foreign tourism.