Asia drives global tourism growth in 2016

Chinese demand for international travel is driving global growth, especially in the Asia Pacific region (credit: Kike Fernandez)
Chinese demand for international travel is driving global growth, especially in the Asia Pacific region (credit: Kike Fernandez)

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.

Chinese spending on outbound tourism jumped 20% in Q1 2016
Chinese spending on outbound tourism jumped 20% in Q1 2016

“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”.

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