Europe saw a total of 609 million international tourists in 2015, an increase of 29 million from the previous year, according to the Secretary General of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UWTO), Taleb Rifai.
“At a time when economic recovery is still quite slow, tourism has been a major contributor to the European economy, generating €404 billion in exports,” Taleb Rifai was quoted saying at the 60th meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Europe in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.
Europe remained the world’s most visited region, accounting for 51 per cent of total international tourist arrivals in 2015, as tourism generated €404 billion in exports, three per cent more from 2014.
The continent recorded about 5 per cent growth, along with the Americas and the Asia-Pacific regions, while the Middle East region grew to an estimated three per cent.
In contrast, the limited data available for Africa pointed to a three per cent decrease in international arrivals, driven largely by a decline in North Africa which accounts for over a third of tourist arrivals in Africa.
“Although the sector continues to progress, many challenges face us. These include a rapidly changing consumer market, the impact of technology, the emergence of new business models, man-made and natural crises, and the quest to make our sector more sustainable and more responsible,” he added.
The UNWTO Commission for Europe said its 60th meeting which attracted representatives of 34 countries, Lithuania’s tourism chamber and other stakeholders, discussed safe, secure and seamless travel, the role of tourism in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development in 2017.
By Emmanuel Odonkor
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