UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai: “These robust results – the best we have seen in many years – reflect the sustained demand for travel around the world, in line with the improved global economy and the rebound of destinations that previously suffered declines in previous years”

INTERNATATIONAL. In the ten months to October 2017, global international tourist arrivals rose +7% year-on-year to 1.127 billion, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The performance was aided by “extraordinary strength” in Southern and Mediterranean Europe, North Africa and parts of the Middle East,

The latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer figures represent an increase of 70 million international arrivals (overnight visitors), which “reflects the global economic upswing”, the UN body said.

As well as sustained growth in many destinations there was a firm recovery in some locations that experienced declines last year.

Growth in Southern and Mediterranean Europe, North Africa and the Middle East exceeded the +7% global average, with a rapid recovery seen in Turkey and double-digit increases for most of the region’s other destinations.

In North Africa and the Middle East, Egypt, Tunisia and Palestine rebounded well from past years’ downturns – helping beleaguered duty free and travel retailers there – while Morocco, Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman and Dubai all posted solid growth.

“The best we have seen in many years…”

UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said: “These robust results – the best we have seen in many years – reflect the sustained demand for travel around the world, in line with the improved global economy and the rebound of destinations that previously suffered declines in previous years.”

By region, for the first ten months of 2017, Europe led the pack at +8%, with Southern and Mediterranean Europe showing the strongest growth (+13%), followed by Western Europe (+7%), Northern Europe (+6%) and Central and Eastern Europe (4%). Africa, also at +8%, was the second fastest-growing region [due to percentage rounding], with recovery in North Africa (+13%) and sound results from sub-Saharan Africa (+5%).

South Asia booms

In Asia Pacific (+5%), results were led by South Asia (+10%), with Southeast Asia (+8%) and Oceania (+7%) also enjoying robust rises. Northeast Asia (+3%) had mixed results, with some destinations reporting double-digit increases, and others declines. The THAAD anti-missile system crisis, for example, dramatically affected Chinese travel to South Korea, though the situation is now expected to ease for travel retailers in the wake of an apparent ending of the dispute.

South America (+7%) continues to lead growth in the Americas, where arrivals overall increased by +3%. Central America and the Caribbean both grew +4%, with recovery in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria. In North America (+2%), a decrease in the US, the region’s largest destination, was countered by robust results in Mexico and Canada.

The Middle East (+5%) had mixed fortunes, with some destinations rebounding well and others continuing with growth – but the regional average was hit by some declines.

Outbound demand from Brazil and Russia is strongly up

Travel retailers should be braced for a new surge in Russian and Brazilian high spenders. UNWTO puts the pick-up on expenditure on international tourism from Brazil at a high +33%, with the Russian Federation coming close at +27%, after several years of declines.

Other source markets also grew at a sustained pace. Among the top ten markets, the following reported the fastest growth in international tourism expenditure: China (+19%), South Korea (+11%), the US and Canada (both +9%), and Italy (+7%). Expenditure from Germany, the UK, Australia, Hong Kong (China) and France grew between +2% and +5%.