Tourism growth “exceeds expectations” – UNWTO

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International tourist arrivals increased 5% during the first half of 2013, reaching almost 500 million, according the latest data from the UNWTO.

This level of growth exceeded the projection of 3-4% made at the beginning of the year, and is also ahead of the UNWTO long-term’s ‘Tourism Towards 2030’ outlook, which projects annual growth of 3.8%.

Destinations around the world welcomed 494m overnight visitors in the first six months of 2013, according to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, which was released to coincide with UNWTO 20th General Assembly. This marks a increase of approximately 25m visitors compared to the first half of 2012, with demand for travel to emerging destinations increasing at a faster rate (+6%) than in developed countries (+4%).

Chinese outbound tourist spending jumped 31% in the first half (photo by TonyV3112)
Chinese outbound tourist spending jumped 31% in the first half (photo by TonyV3112)

“The fact that international tourism grew above expectations confirms that travelling is now part of consumer patterns for an increasing number of people in both emerging and advanced economies” said UNWTO secretary-general, Taleb Rifai. “This underlines the need to rightly place tourism as one of the key pillars of socio-economic development, being a leading contributor to economic growth, exports and jobs.”

Asia Pacific (+6%) saw strong growth, boosted a surge in arrivals to Southeast Asia (+12%) and South Asia (+7%), while the Middle East rebounded (+13%) after two years of negative growth. The UNWTO advised however, that the Middle East’s results should be “taken with caution”, with growth uneven across destinations.

In Europe, international tourist arrivals were up 5%, led by Central and Eastern Europe (+10%) and Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+6%). The Americas (+2%) reported a weaker first half of 2013 than in previous years, with Central America (+4%) performing above the region’s average and arrivals to the Caribbean and in South America remaining flat. Africa’s arrivals increased 4%.

In terms of tourism expenditure, emerging outbound markets continue to drive growth both to emerging and advanced economy destinations. China (+31%) and Russia (+22%) led the way, while Brazilian outbound expenditure jumped 15%. Expenditure from traditional markets however, was more modest. The US, UK and Germany remained flat, while overseas visitors from Japan and Australia actually spent less than last year.

The UNWTO predicted that growth will to continue in the second half of 2013, albeit at a slower pace, and raised its full-year arrivals growth forecast to “4% or slightly above”.

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