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International tourism hits 1.1bn

Global tourism mobility is on the rise with 1.138 billion tourists travelling abroad in 2014 – 4.7% more than in 2013. The statistics, published by the World Tourism Organisation, mark the fifth consecutive year of growth in international tourism since the 2009 economic crisis.

Photo: Raymond June.

Europe remained the world's most popular destination region, welcoming more than half the world's international tourists

“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,” commented UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.

Tourism has proven to be a surprisingly strong and resilient economic activity and a fundamental contributor to the economic recovery”

The Americas led two-way growth regionally, with both inbound and outbound numbers up 7%.

However, Europe remained the most popular destination region in the world, welcoming more than half the world’s international tourists – 588 million – with 4% growth in 2014.

North America and the Caribbean drove the 13 million-strong rise in incoming tourists to the Americas, up 8% and 7% respectively, while the rate of growth in Central America and South America doubled to 6% in the last year.

Asia and the Pacific also saw strong outbound growth, at 5%. As well as sending more tourists abroad, Asia Pacific saw a notable rise in incoming tourists, with 13 million or 5% more than last year.

It was other Asians – in northeast Asia and South Asia – helping fuel this trend.

Data for the Middle East and Africa is less readily available and more volatile, but indicates growth of 4% and 2%, to 50 million and 56 million respectively.

This includes a surprising 3% rise in tourists coming into sub-Saharan Africa despite the Ebola outbreak in some West African countries.

China remains the world’s largest outbound market, with expenditure up 17% in the first three quarters of 2014; growth is slowing, though remains strong at 17%, down from 40% in 2012 and 26% in 2013.

Russia, in contrast, saw outbound expenditure on tourism shrink by 6%.

The most dramatic growth was seen in some smaller markets, with expenditure from Saudi Arabia, India, the Philippines and Qatar increasing 30% or more.

Growth is expected to continue in 2015 at 3-4% as demand continues to rise, thanks to an improving economic situation and declining oil prices, which are at their lowest since 2009.

“This will lower transport costs and boost economic growth by lifting purchasing power and private demand in oil importing economies,” Rifai commented. “Yet, it could also negatively impact some of the oil exporting countries which have emerged as strong tourism source markets.”

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