INTERNATIONAL. International tourist arrivals surged +7% in 2017 to 1,322 million, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.

UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) called the growth “remarkable”, and said it expected the strong momentum to continue in 2018 at a rate of +4-5%.

This is above the +3.8% average increase projected for the period 2010-2020 by UNWTO in its Tourism Towards 2030 long-term forecast. Europe and the Americas are both expected to grow by +3.5-4.5%, Asia Pacific by +5-6%, Africa by +5-7%, and the Middle East by +4-6% in 2018.

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Last year’s +7% increase was well above the sustained and consistent trend of 4% or higher growth since 2010 and represents the strongest result in seven years.

UNWTO said 2017 was characterised by sustained growth in many destinations and a firm recovery in those that suffered decreases in previous years. Results were partly shaped by the global economic upswing and the robust outbound demand from many traditional and emerging source markets, it noted. There was a solid rebound in tourism spending from Brazil and the Russian Federation after a few years of declines, for example.

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“International travel continues to grow strongly, consolidating the tourism sector as a key driver in economic development,” commented UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.

“As the third export sector in the world, tourism is essential for job creation and the prosperity of communities around the world.

“Yet, as we continue to grow we must work closer together to ensure this growth benefits every member of every host community, and is in line with sustainable development goals.”

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili: “We must work closer together to ensure this growth benefits every member of every host community”

Results by region

Europe recorded what UNWTO termed “extraordinary” results for a large and mature region. International tourist arrivals were up +8% to 671 million. It follows a comparatively weaker 2016 (+2% on 2015).

The performance was led by strong +13% growth in Southern and Mediterranean Europe. Western Europe (+7%), Northern Europe and Central and Eastern Europe (both +5%) also recorded robust increases.

Asia Pacific recorded 324 million international tourist arrivals in 2017, a +6% rise. Arrivals in South Asia grew +10%, in Southeast Asia +8%, and in Oceania +7%. Arrivals to Northeast Asia increased +3%.

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A +3% rise in the Americas took the total number of international tourist arrivals to 207 million. Most destinations achieved positive results. South America (+7%) led growth, followed by Central America and the Caribbean (both +4%). The latter showed clear signs of recovery in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria, UNWTO said.

In North America (+2%), robust results in Mexico and Canada contrasted with a decline in the USA, the region’s largest destination.

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Based on available data for Africa, UNWTO estimated growth in the region at +8%. Africa consolidated its 2016 rebound and reached a record 62 million international arrivals. North Africa enjoyed a strong recovery with arrivals growing + 13%, while in Sub-Saharan Africa arrivals increased +5%.

The Middle East (+5%) received 58 million international tourist arrivals in 2017 with sustained growth in some destinations and a strong recovery in others, UNWTO noted.