The world welcomed 561 million international travellers in the first half of 2016, up 4% from the same period last year.
According to the latest data from the UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), this equates to an additional 21 million cross-border trips. And much of this growth is being driven by destinations in Asia.
The Asia Pacific region welcomed 9% more international arrivals in the January-June 2016 period – the highest growth of any world region. According to the UNWTO, “robust intra-regional demand” led to a 10% increase in travel to Oceania (+10%), and 9% increases in Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia. Destinations in South Asia welcomed 7% more international visitors.
This growth helped offset a sharp 9% decline in international arrivals to the Middle East, although UNWTO noted that data for this region was “limited”.
International arrivals to the Americas increased 4% in the first half, led by Central America and South America, while Europe (+3%) showed mixed results and Africa’s growth (+5%) dominated by sub-Saharan destinations, which compensated for weaker figures in North Africa.
“Tourism has proven to be one of the most resilient economic sectors worldwide. It is creating jobs for millions, at a time when providing perspectives for a better future to people of all regions is one of our biggest challenges,” said UNWTO secretary-general, Taleb Rifai. “But tourism is also creating bonds among people of all nations and backgrounds, bringing down stereotypes and fighting fear and distrust.
“Safety and security are key pillars of tourism development and we need to strengthen our common action to build a safe, secure and seamless travel framework. This is no time to build walls or point fingers; it is time to build an alliance based on a shared vision and a joint responsibility,” he added.
China, the world’s largest source market, continued to report double-digit growth in terms of expenditure on international travel (+20% in the first quarter of 2016), while the second and third largest markets, the US and Germany, saw growth of 8% and 4% respectively in the first seven months of the year.
Other markets that showed robust demand for outbound travel in the first half included Australia (+10%) and Japan (+6%), but expenditure from Russia and Brazil remained weak.
The first half of the year typically accounts for around 46% of the total full-year international arrivals, and the UNWTO said that it believes the remaining months will be “in line with the trend of the first half of the year”.