International tourist arrivals grew by 4% in the first eight months of 2012, as the record year for the world’s tourism industry continues.
According to the latest data from the UNWTO, a total of 705 million tourists travelled internationally between January and August 2012 – 28m more than last year and the highest eight-month total on record. The UNWTO said it “remains confident” that the world will see a landmark one billion international tourist arrivals by the end of the year.
“This growth is a very positive result in view of the global economic situation. We must remain cautious however, as we have also observed some weaker months during the year, a trend that might return in the remainder of the year,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.
Growth in June (+2.7%) and July (+1.4%) was slower than in the first five months of the year (average of 5%), but recovered in August (4.0%) – a positive sign in the month that accounts for the highest volume of international tourism in the year. The UNWTO expects growth of 3-4% for the year as a whole, while forecasting a slight slowdown in demand for 2013 (2-4%).
By region, growth was stronger in Asia Pacific and Africa, followed by the Americas and Europe. The Middle East continues to show signs of recovery, with particularly promising results in Egypt.
Europe (+3%) consolidated its record growth of 2011 despite ongoing economic volatility in the eurozone. Results were above average in Central and Eastern Europe (+9%), in line with the average in Western Europe (+3%), but weaker in Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+1%) – one of the best performing European sub-regions in 2011 – as well as in Northern Europe (+0.2%).
Southeast Asia and South Asia (both at +8%) led the way in Asia Pacific (+7%), followed by Northeast Asia (+7%), reflecting the recovery of the Japanese inbound and outbound markets. Growth was also positive in Oceania (+5%).
In the Americas (+4%), Central (+7%) and South America (+6%) continued to show the strongest performances, with growth in the Caribbean (+5%) also significant. International tourist arrivals grew 3% in North America.
In Africa (+6%), the recovery of Tunisia is clearly reflected in the results of North Africa (+10%), as is the rebound of Egypt in the performance of the Middle East (-1% as compared to a decline of 7% in 2011). Destinations in Sub-Saharan Africa (+4%) continued to show positive results.
Among the 10 largest international tourism earners, receipts grew significantly in Hong Kong (+17%), USA (+8%), Germany (+7%), France (+5%) and the UK (+4%). A number of other major destinations reported double-digit growth in receipts, such as Japan (+48%), Sweden (+26%), South Africa (+26%), South Korea (+26%), India (+23%), Poland (+19%), Thailand (+17%), Russia (+16%), Egypt (+13%), Czech Republic (+13%), Taiwan (+11), Singapore (+10%) and Croatia (+10%).
Among the top 10 international markets by expenditure on travel abroad, growth was significant in China (+30%), Russia (+15%), USA (+9%), Canada (+6%), Germany (+5%) and Australia (+4%) as well as in Japan, where a 7% increase confirms the recovery of this market. Following a decline in recent years, the UK recorded a modest 2% growth in tourism expenditure, but both Italy and France declined.
Other major emerging economies showing strong growth included Poland (+22%), Malaysia (+18%), Argentina (+16%), the Philippines (+14%), India (+11%) and Indonesia (+10%).