Record 1.2 billion tourists seen around the world in 2015 – UNWTO

Canopy walkway over the sea. (Photo credit: Ave Maria Resort Wellness Centre).
Canopy walkway over the sea. (Photo credit: Ave Maria Resort Wellness Centre).

Tourism is a major driver of the global eceonomy. It’s importance is such that the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) says it is committed to support the sector in advancing its contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through technical assistance and capacity-building initiatives

A record 1.2 billion tourists travelled around the world in 2015, the UNWTO said in its Annual Report for the year emailed to

“With more than one billion tourists travelling to an international destination every year, tourism has become a leading economic sector, contributing 10 per cent of global GDP and 6 per cent of the world’s total exports,” it said.

According to the UNWTO, international tourist arrivals grew by 4.4 per cent in 2015 to reach a total of 1,184 million in 2015, marking the sixth consecutive year of above-average growth with international arrivals increasing by 4 per cent or more every year since the post-crisis year of 2010.

It indicates that some 50 million more tourists (overnight visitors) travelled to international destinations around the world in 2015 than in 2014.

“Demand remained strong overall, though with mixed results across individual destinations due to strong exchange rate fluctuations, increased safety and

security concerns, and the drop in oil prices and other commodities, which increased disposable income in importing countries but weakened demand in exporters,” the UNWTO added.

The UN agency responsible for global tourism said growth in advanced economy destinations (+5 per cent) exceeded that of emerging economies (+4 per cent), boosted by the solid results of Europe (+5 per cent).

By region, it said, Europe, the Americas and Asia and the Pacific all recorded approximately 5 per cent growth in 2015.

Arrivals in the Middle East increased by 3 per cent while data in Africa, albeit limited, pointed to an estimated 3 per cent decrease largely due to weak results in North Africa, which accounts for over one third of arrivals in the region, it said.

It said Europe with a growth of +5 per cent led growth in absolute and relative terms supported by a weaker euro vis-à-vis the US dollar and other main currencies.

“Arrivals reached 609 million, or 29 million more than in 2014. Central and Eastern Europe with plus 6 per cent rebounded

The ruins of Carthage in Tunis, Tunisia
The ruins of Carthage in Tunis, Tunisia

from last year’s decrease in arrivals,” it said.

The agency noted that Northern Europe (+7 per cent) and Southern Mediterranean Europe (+5 per cent) also recorded sound results while Western Europe (+3 per cent) was below average.

Asia and the Pacific with a plus 5 per cent growth recorded 14 million more international tourist arrivals last year to reach 278 million, with uneven results across destinations. Oceania (+7 per cent) and South-East Asia (+6 per cent) led growth, while South Asia and North-East Asia recorded an increase of 4 per cent.

On the Americas, the UNWTO said international tourist arrivals of plus 5 per cent grew 10 million to reach 192 million, consolidating the strong results of 2014.

The appreciation of the US dollar stimulated outbound travel from the United States, benefiting the Caribbean and Central America, both of which recorded 7 per cent growth, it said.

Results in South America, at plus 5 per cent and North America, plus 4 per cent were close to the average, it said.

In the Middle East, international tourist arrivals grew by an estimated 3 per cent to a total of 54 million, consolidating the recovery initiated in 2014.

However, with limited available data for Africa points, the UNWTO says the continent suffered a 3 per cent decrease in international arrivals, reaching a total of 53 million.

Arrivals declined in North Africa by 8 per cent while Sub-Saharan Africa saw zero growth, though the latter returned to positive growth in the second half of the year. (Results for both Africa and the Middle East should be read with caution as it is based on limited available data), the agency said.

It noted that results from the UNWTO Confidence Index remain largely positive for 2016, though at a slightly lower level than the previous two years.

“Based on the current trend and outlook, UNWTO projects international tourist arrivals to grow by 4 per cent worldwide in 2016,” it said.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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