The UNWTO has reported that in 2019 there were 1.5
billion international tourist arrivals globally, the tenth
consecutive year of growth.
The total equates to a 4% increase on
2018, which is also the forecast increase for this year.
All regions saw a rise in international arrivals
in 2019. However, uncertainty surrounding Brexit, the collapse of
Thomas Cook, geopolitical and social tensions and the global
economic slowdown all contributed to a slower growth in 2019, when
compared to the exceptional rates of 2017 and 2018. This slowdown
affected mainly advanced economies and particularly Europe and
Asia and the Pacific.
Looking ahead, growth of 3% to 4% is predicted for
2020, an outlook reflected in the latest UNWTO Confidence Index
which shows a cautious optimism: 47% of participants believe
tourism will perform better and 43% at the same level of 2019.
Major sporting events, including the Tokyo Olympics, and cultural
events such as Expo 2020 Dubai are expected to have a positive
impact on the sector.
Presenting the results, UNWTO Secretary-General
Zurab Pololikashvili stressed that “in these times of uncertainty
and volatility, tourism remains a reliable economic sector.”
Against the backdrop of recently downgraded global economic
perspectives, international trade tensions, social unrest and
geopolitical uncertainty, “our sector keeps outpacing the world
economy and calling upon us to not only grow but to grow better,”
Given tourism’s position as a top export sector
and creator of employment, UNWTO advocates the need for
responsible growth. Tourism has, therefore, a place at the heart
of global development policies, and the opportunity to gain
further political recognition and make a real impact as the Decade
of Action gets underway, leaving just ten years to fulfill the
2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
The Middle East has emerged as the fastest-growing
region for international tourism arrivals in 2019, growing at
almost double the global average (+8%). Growth in Asia and the
Pacific slowed down but still showed above-average growth, with
international arrivals up 5%.
Europe, where growth was also slower than in
previous years (+4%), continues to lead in terms of international
arrivals numbers, welcoming 743 million international tourists
last year (51% of the global market).
The Americas (+2%) showed a
mixed picture as many island destinations in the Caribbean
consolidated their recovery after the 2017 hurricanes while
arrivals fell in South America due partly to ongoing social and
Limited data available for Africa (+4%) points
to continued strong results in North Africa (+9%) while arrivals
in Sub-Saharan Africa grew slower in 2019 (+1.5%).
Against a backdrop of global economic slowdown,
tourism spending continued to grow, most notably among the world’s
top ten spenders.
France reported the strongest increase in
international tourism expenditure among the world’s top ten
outbound markets (+11%), while the United States (+6%) led growth
in absolute terms, aided by a strong dollar.
However, some large emerging markets such as
Brazil and Saudi Arabia reported declines in tourism spending.
China, the world’s top source market saw outbound trips increase
by 14% in the first half of 2019, though expenditure fell 4%.
“The number of destinations earning US$1 billion
or more from international tourism has almost doubled since 1998,”
said Mr Pololikashvili. “The challenge we face is to make sure the
benefits are shared as widely as possible and that nobody is left
behind. In 2020, UNWTO celebrates the Year of Tourism and Rural
Development, and we hope to see our sector lead positive change in
rural communities, creating jobs and opportunities, driving
economic growth and preserving culture.”
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