Global tourism on track for record year

A surge in visitors to the US boosted North America's figures in 2014 (photo by Luciano Mortula)
A surge in visitors to the US boosted North America’s figures in 2014 (photo by Luciano Mortula)

The global tourism industry is on track to set a new record in 2014, in terms of international visitor numbers.

The latest data from the UNWTO shows that approximately 1.1 billion international tourists are expected to travel this year, up from 1.087bn in 2013.

In the first 10 months of 2014, international arrivals reached 978 million – an increase of 4.7%, or 45m tourists, compared to the same period last year. This growth rate is ahead of the UNWTO’s projection of 3.8% average annual growth for the period 2010-2020.

By region, the strongest growth was registered in the Americas (+8%), followed by Asia Pacific (+5%) and Europe (+4%). By sub-region, North America (+9%) and South Asia (+8%) were the star performers, along with Southern Europe, Northeast Asia and Northern Europe (all +7%).

“International tourism is set to end 2014 with record numbers,” said UNWTO secretary-general, Taleb Rifai. “These are remarkable results considering that different parts of the world continue to face significant geopolitical and health challenges, while the global economic recovery remains rather fragile and uneven.

“More importantly, we see a growing political commitment to the tourism sector in many countries. This is encouraging, not in the least because tourism is one of the sectors that is best able to deliver on employment at a moment when job creation need to be a priority to all,” he added.

But a drop in Thailand's tourist numbers impacted Southeast Asia's results
But a drop in Thailand’s tourist numbers impacted Southeast Asia’s results

The growth of international tourism in the Americas (+8%) marks the region’s best performance since 2004. All sub-regions – North America, the Caribbean, Central America and South America – doubled the growth rates of 2013, with especially strong results in Mexico and the US.

Asia Pacific’s growth of 5% consolidates the region’s upward trend of recent years. The best results came from South Asia (+8%), led by India (+7%), and Northeast Asia (+7%) where Japan and South Korea registered double-digit growth. Arrivals in Oceania grew by 6%, following a strong rise in arrivals to Australia and New Zealand. In Southeast Asia however, growth slowed to +2%, largely as a result of the decline in visitors to Thailand.

Europe, the most visited region in the world, posted a 4% increase in the year-to-October, with strong results in Northern Europe and in Southern Europe (both +7%), driven by strong rise in demand for travel to Greece, Portugal, Spain and Malta. International tourism grew at a more modest pace in Western Europe (+2%) and was stagnant in Central and Eastern Europe (0%).

Arrivals to the Middle East are estimated to be up by 4%, marking a rebound following the declines registered since 2011. Africa’s international tourist numbers grew by 3%.

The UNWTO said it will release its final full-year 2014 results by 27 January 2015.

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