World tourism has returned to levels last seen before the global financial meltdown in late 2008, with the Asia-Pacific region leading the way, the UN World Tourism Organisation said Wednesday.
"As on previous occasions, such as after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and the 2003 SARS outbreak, tourism has again confirmed a strong capacity for recovery," the Madrid-based body said.
Tourist arrivals from January to August totalled 642 million, some 40 million more than during the same period in 2009 and one million more than in the last "pre-crisis" year of 2008, which saw record numbers, it said in a report.
"International tourism continues to recover from the decline of 4.2 percent suffered last year under the impact of the economic crisis," it said.
It projected an increase of 5.0-6.0 percent over the full year and of around 4.0 percent in 2011.
Emerging country destinations continued to lead the way while Europe recovered at a slower pace, the UNWTO said.
"Although recovery is still lagging in parts of Europe and the Americas, many destinations are already showing real growth and setting new records."
It said the Asia-Pacific region in particular has "shown resilience and a strong capacity for recovery.
"The region was caught quite early and suddenly by the economic crisis but was also the first to show signs of recovery, posting an impressive 14 percent growth in international arrivals through August 2010."
It has gained an extra 10 million international tourist arrivals compared to the pre-crisis year of 2008, with most destinations registering double-digit growth rates and many even more than 20 percent.
The organisation also noted strong growth in the Middle East, up 16 percent, and in Africa, up 9.0 percent, helped by the soccer World Cup hosted by South Africa.