Global tourism continues steady growth

Tourists take photos at the Golden Gate Bridge overlook in Marin County, California.
Tourists take photos at the Golden Gate Bridge overlook in Marin County, California. Bob Berwyn photo.

UN officials see tourism as an economic pillar

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Now that the World Tourism Organization has counted every last airline traveler, cruise passenger and backpacker, it’s official — international tourist arrivals grew by 4 percent in 2012 to surpass 1 billion for the first time ever, according to the latest update of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.

Emerging economies led the way, showing growth of 4.1 percent, compared to 3.6 percent growth among advanced economies, with Asia and the Pacific showing the strongest results. By region, Asia and the Pacific showed 7.1 percent growth. By sub-region, South-East Asia, North Africa (both at  plus 9 percent) and Central and Eastern Europe (plus 8 percent) topped the rankings.

Tourism officials say they expect growth to continue in 2013 at a slightly slower pace between 3 and 4 percent, continuing the trend from the last quarter of 2012, when demand was stronger than expected.

“2012 saw continued economic volatility around the globe, particularly in the Eurozone. Yet international tourism managed to stay on course” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai. “The sector has shown its capacity to adjust to the changing market conditions and, although at a slightly more modest rate, is expected to continue expanding in 2013. Tourism is thus one of the pillars that should be supported by governments around the world as part of the solution to stimulating economic growth,” he added.

UNWTO forecasts international tourist arrivals to increase by 3 percent to 4 percent in 2013, much in line with the long term forecast for 2030, with an average annual growth rate of 3.8 percent between 2010 and 2020. This outlook is confirmed by the UNWTO Confidence Index. Compiled among over 300 experts worldwide, the Index shows that prospects for 2013 are similar to the evaluation of last year (124 points for 2013 against 122 for 2012).

By region, prospects for 2013 are strongest for Asia and the Pacific (plus 5 percent to plus 6 percent), followed by Africa (plus 4 percent to plus 6 percent), the Americas (plus 3 percent to +4 percent), Europe (plus 2 percent to plus 3 percent) and the Middle East (0 to pkus 5 percent).


International tourist arrivals to Europe, the most visited region in the world, were up by 3 percent; a very positive result in view of the economic situation, and following a strong 2011 ( plus 6 percent). Total arrivals reached 535 million, 17 million more than in 2011. By sub-region, Central and Eastern Europe destinations ( plus 8 percent) experienced the best results, followed by Western Europe (plus 3 percent). Destinations in Southern Mediterranean Europe (plus 2 percent) consolidated their excellent performance of 2011 and returned in 2012 to their normal growth rates.

Asia and the Pacific (plus 7 percent) was up by 15 million arrivals in 2012, reaching a total 233 million international tourists. South-East Asia (plus 9 percent) was the best performing sub-region much due to the implementation of policies that foster intraregional cooperation and coordination in tourism. Growth was also strong in North-East Asia (plus 6 percent), as Japanese inbound and outbound tourism recovered, while it was comparatively weaker in South Asia (plus 4 percent) and in Oceania (plus 4 percent).

The Americas (plus 4 percent) saw an increase of 6 million arrivals, reaching 162 million in total. Leading the growth were destinations in Central America (plus 6 percent), while South America, up by 4 percent, showed some slowdown as compared to the double-digit growth of 2010 and 2011. The Caribbean (plus 4 percent), on the other hand, is performing above the previous two years, while North America (plus 3 percent) consolidated its 2011 growth.

Africa (plus 6 percent) recovered well from its setback in 2011 when arrivals declined by 1 percent due largely to the negative results of North Africa. Arrivals reached a new record (52 million) due to the rebound in North Africa (plus 9 percent as compared to a 9 percent decline in 2011) and to the continued growth of Sub-Saharan destinations (plus 5 percent). Results in the Middle East (minus 5 percent) improved after a 7 percent decline in 2011, yet the region recorded an estimated 3 million international tourist arrivals less in 2012 in spite of the clear recovery in Egypt.

Available data on international tourism receipts and expenditure for 2012 covering at least the first nine months of the year confirm the positive trend in arrivals.

Among the top ten tourist destinations, receipts were up significantly in Hong Kong (China) (plus 16 percent), the USA (plus 10 percent), the UK (plus 6 percent) and Germany (plus 5 percent). At the same time, a significant number of destinations around the world saw receipts from international tourism increase by 15 percent or more – Japan (plus 37 percent), India and South Africa (both  plus 22 percent), Sweden and the Republic of Korea (both plus 19 percent), Thailand (plus 18 percent) and Poland (plus 16 percent).

Traditional markets

Although the highest growth rates in expenditure abroad among the ten top markets came from emerging economies — China (plus 42 percent) and Russia (plus 31 percent) – important traditional source markets, showed particularly good results. In Europe, and despite economic pressures, expenditure on international tourism by Germany held well at plus 3 percent, while the UK (plus 5 percent) returned to growth after two flat years. In the Americas, both the USA and Canada grew at 7 percent. On the other hand, France (minus 7 percent) and Italy (minus 2 percent) registered declines in travel expenditure.

Smaller markets with significant growth were Venezuela (plus 31 percent), Poland (plus 19 percent), Philippines (plus 7 percent), Malaysia (plus 15 percent), Saudi Arabia (plus 14 percent), Belgium (plus 13 percent), Norway and Argentina (both plus 12 percent), Switzerland and Indonesia (both plus 10 percent).

More details at the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.



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