International tourism is still on track to reaching over one billion travellers by the end of this year. This comes as the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) releases figures showing that a record 467 million tourists travelled during the first half of the year. The UNWTO regularly publishes its World Tourism Barometer, which monitors the evolution of tourism in the short term and provides the sector with timely and relevant information.
Tourism demand around the world continues to be resilient despite global economic concerns. The UNWTO says, between January and June, the number of international travellers grew 5%, or 22 million, compared to the same period last year. Even though it’s expected that the rest of the year will see a slight decline in growth, global arrivals are predicted to surpass the one billion mark by the end of the year.
There was healthy demand from advanced and emerging markets during the first half – with a 30% growth in China, 15% in Russia, 9% in the US, and 6% in both Canada and Germany. With an 8% rise in spending on overseas tourism in Japan, the country is showing recovery from the tsunami, earthquake and nuclear crisis. Despite this, growth was slow or declined in the UK, France, Italy and Australia.
As for regions, international arrivals grew in all of them during the period. Europe was the most visited region in the world and had a 4% increase in visitors despite continued economic difficulties in the Eurozone. Central and Eastern Europe fared well with a 7% rise as several destinations experienced double-digit growth, while Western Europe exhibited a 5% increase in tourists. However, demand in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean slowed to just 1% growth.
Tourism grew 5% in the Americas – with Central America rising 7% and South America increasing 6%. South America has actually been one of the fastest growing sub-regions in recent years. Growth remained buoyant at 5% in the Caribbean, while North American travel numbers increased 4%.
The return of tourism to some parts of Africa has seen a 7% increase in visitor numbers. North Africa had the strongest growth – up 11%. The Middle East saw a 0.7% rise in travellers, while Sub-Saharan Africa demonstrated a 6% increase.
The strongest growth, however, has been in the Asia-Pacific region – where traveller numbers jumped 8%. This was boosted by the recovery of inbound and outbound tourism among the Japanese, while major source markets had a strong performance throughout the region. South and South-East Asian destinations pulled in a 9% rise in tourist numbers each, which is one of the best results around the world.
UNWTO secretary general Taleb Rifai says that tourism is one economic sector that’s exhibited strong growth around the world, despite the uncertainty about the economy. It has driven economic progress in developed and developing nations, as well as created much needed jobs. Although the economic crisis in 2008-09 hit Asia because of its links to other economies, the region has bounced back fast. Now the country is a leading economy, which clearly shows in its tourism numbers.
Every country needs to ensure that the industry is supported by sufficient national policies and that work is done to reduce existing barriers to the sector’s expansion in the lead up to this one billion traveller milestone. This includes improving limited connectivity, reducing direct taxation and simplifying complicated visa procedures.Author's Google+ page