World welcomes 21m more international travellers

The global number of international tourists increased 4% in the first half of 2015, to 538 million travellers.

According to the latest data from UNWTO, this means that 21m more people travelled overseas in the first six months of this year than in the same period in 2014. That’s the equivalent of the entire populations of the Netherlands and Norway being added to global tourism flows.

By region, the growth was strongest in the Caribbean and Oceania (both +7%), followed by Central & Eastern Europe and Central America (both +6%). Western Europe, Northern Europe, Mediterranean Europe, Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East all experienced 5% growth. African tourism declined however, with a 10% drop in arrivals to North Africa and a 4% decline in sub-Saharan Africa.

Tourists on the Great Wall of China (photo by Bankoo)
Tourists on the Great Wall of China (photo by Bankoo)

The UNWTO said tourism in 2015 has been impacted by “safety and security.., lower oil prices and currency fluctuations.”

“These results show that, despite increased volatility, tourism continues to consolidate the positive performance it has had over the last five years and to provide development and economic opportunities worldwide,” said UNWTO secretary-general, Taleb Rifai.

“As UNWTO prepares to meet in Medellin, Colombia, for its 21st General Assembly, this is the appropriate moment to call for a stronger support to tourism as the sector has the potential to deliver on some of the most pressing challenges of our time, namely job creation, economic growth and social inclusion.”

According to the UNWTO forecast issued at the beginning of 2015, international tourist arrivals are expected to increase 3-4% worldwide for the whole year, in line with the long-term forecast of an average growth of 3.8% per year set for the period 2010 to 2020.

In terms of outbound tourism, China and India both started the year with double-digit growth, while the US, France, Sweden and Spain remains strong.

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