International tourist arrivals reached 1.14 billion in 2014, according to the latest figures from the UNWTO.
This marks an increase of 51 million travellers, or +4.7%, compared to 2013. The industry has now experienced five consecutive years of growth, and is expected to continue expanding in 2015 with the UNWTO forecasting a further 3-4% increase in international tourism numbers this year.
“Over the past years, tourism has proven to be a surprisingly strong and resilient economic activity and a fundamental contributor to the economic recovery by generating billions of dollars in exports and creating millions of jobs,” said UNWTO secretary-general, Taleb Rifai.
“This has been true for destinations all around the world, but particularly for Europe, as the region struggles to consolidate its way out of one of the worst economic periods in its history.”
The Americas (+7% to 181m arrivals) and Asia Pacific (+5% to 263m) registered the strongest growth in 2014, while gains in Europe (+4% to 588m), the Middle East (+4% to 50m) and Africa (+2% to 56m) meant that all the world’s regions registered positive results.
By sub-region, North America (+8%) achieved the best results, followed by Northeast Asia, South Asia, Southern Europe, Northern Europe and the Caribbean (all +7%).
Next year, Asia Pacific and the Americas (both +4-5%) are expected to lead the way again, followed by Europe (+3-4%).
“We expect demand to continue growing in 2015 as the global economic situation improves even though there are still plenty of challenges ahead. On the positive side, oil prices have declined to a level not seen since 2009. This will lower transport costs and boost economic growth by lifting purchasing power and private demand in oil importing economies. Yet, it could also negatively impact some of the oil exporting countries which have emerged as strong tourism source markets,” Rifai added.
The growth of international tourism is being driven by China, which contributed 109m overseas tourists in 2014 – 11m more than the previous year.