IN spite of rising security and safety risks, people the world over are still traveling beyond their borders.
International tourist arrivals grew by 7 percent to 1.32 billion in 2017, according to the latest United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Tourism Barometer. This strong momentum is projected to remain through 2018, growing between 4 percent and 5 percent, the organization said.
“International travel continues to grow strongly, consolidating the tourism sector as a key driver in economic development,” UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said. “As the third export sector in the world, tourism is essential for job creation and the prosperity of communities around the world. Yet, as we continue to grow, we must work closer together to ensure this growth benefits every member of every host community, and is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals,” he added.
The UNWTO estimated that overnight visitors worldwide rose by 7 percent last year, which is well above the sustained and consistent trend of 4 percent or higher growth since 2010. This is also the strongest result in seven years.
The growth in international tourists was led by Mediterranean destinations, with Europe recording an 8.4-percent increase to 671.1 million in 2017. International arrivals in Africa rebounded, recording a 7.8-percent growth to 62.1 million.
Arrivals in Asia and the Pacific increased by 5.8 percent to 323.7 million; the Middle East, up 4.8 percent to 58.3 million; and the Americas, up 2.9 percent to 206.6 million.
The UNWTO said 2017 was “characterized by sustained growth in many destinations and a firm recovery in those that suffered decreases in previous years. Results were partly shaped by the global economic upswing and the robust outbound demand from many traditional and emerging source markets, particularly a rebound in tourism spending from Brazil and the Russian Federation after a few years of declines.”
The organization added this strong performance in international tourism would continue this year. But the pace of this growth would be steady and more sustainable, after eight years of continued expansion following the global economic crisis in 2009.
Based on current trends, economic prospects and the outlook by the UNWTO Panel of Experts, the organization estimates international tourist arrivals worldwide to grow between 4 percent and 5 percent in 2018. This is slightly above the 3.8-percent average earlier projected by the organization from 2010 to 2020.
Europe and the Americas are both expected to grow by 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent, Asia and the Pacific by 5 percent to 6 percent, Africa by 5 percent to 7 percent, and the Middle East by 4 percent to 6 percent.
Per the data collected, international tourist arrivals in Europe reached 671 million in 2017, a remarkable 8-percent increase following a comparatively weaker 2016. Growth was driven by the extraordinary results in Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+13 percent). Western Europe (+7 percent), Northern Europe and Central and Eastern Europe (both +5 percent) also recorded robust growth.
Asia and the Pacific recorded 324 million international tourist arrivals in 2017, an increase of 6 percent. Arrivals in South Asia grew 10 percent; in Southeast Asia, 8 percent; and in Oceania, 7 percent. Arrivals in Northeast Asia increased by 3 percent.
The Americas welcomed 3 percent more international tourist arrivals last year, reaching 207 million, with most destinations enjoying positive results. South America (+7 percent) led growth, followed by Central America and the Caribbean (both +4 percent), with the Caribbean showing clear signs of recovery in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria. In North America (+2 percent), robust results in Mexico and Canada contrasted with a decrease in the United States, the region’s largest destination.
Arrivals growth in Africa was pegged at 8 percent, reaching a record 62 million international tourists. North Africa enjoyed a strong recovery, with arrivals growing by 13 percent, while in Sub-Saharan Africa, arrivals increased by 5 percent.
Last, about 58 million international tourists arrived in the Middle East in 2017, an increase of 5 percent, on sustained growth in some destinations and a strong recovery in others.