International tourism off to strong start in 2012

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Global international tourist arrivals increased 5.7% in the first two months of 2012.

According to the latest results from the UNWTO, a total of 131 million international trips were taken across the world in the first two months of 2012, up from 124 million in the same period last year.

131 million international trips were taken in the first two months of 2012
131 million international trips were taken in the first two months of 2012

The first results of the year showed that arrivals to the Asia Pacific outpaced the global average in January-February 2012, rising 7%. This was led by South Asia and Southeast Asia (both +10%) which were the world’s fastest-growing sub-regions. Northeast Asia (+6%) also recorded higher growth, with arrivals to Japan up by almost 10% in the first quarter.

In Europe (+5%) results were above expectations, boosted by the strong growth in arrivals to Central and Eastern Europe (+8%) as well as to destinations of Northern Europe and Western Europe (both +6%). Europe’s performance is a continuation of an already solid 2011, when international arrivals increased by 6% overall to over 500 million.

“These are welcome results for Europe in a moment in which countries are looking for sectors that can deliver on economic growth and job creation,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “We need to work together with tourism administrations to ensure that governments give priority to tourism as part of national policies to stimulate growth and employment. In this respect, the 54th Meeting of UNWTO Commission for Europe is focusing on levers that can further enhance tourism development, particularly the crucial issues of visa facilitation, tourism promotion and branding.”

Growth was positive in all regions, with the exception of the Middle East (-1%), where there were signs of recovery, such as in Egypt (+32% in the first quarter).

Africa was the fastest-growing region with an increase of more than 7% thanks to continued growth in Sub-Saharan Africa (+7%) and a clear rebound in North Africa (+8%). The Americas also reported significant growth (+6%), driven by strong demand in South America (+8%) and Central America (+7%).

According to the UNWTO’s forecasts, international tourist arrivals are expected to increase 3-4% in 2012 to exceed one billion for the first time.

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