Tourism’s record year continues

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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.

Antalya International Airport in Turkey (photo by Brendan Howard)
Antalya International Airport in Turkey (photo by Brendan Howard)

“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%).

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