International tourism is set to hit a new record by the end of 2014 with over 1.1 billion international tourists traveling the world in a single year. During the first ten months of 2014, the number of international tourists grew by 5% according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, rising above expectations.
Between January and October 2014, the volume of international tourists (overnight visitors) reached 978 million, 45 million more than in the same period of 2013. With an increase of 4.7%, international tourism continues to grow well above the long-term trend projected by UNWTO for the period 2010-2020 (+3.8%), and is set to end the year at over 1.1 billion.
By region, the strongest growth was registered in the Americas (+8%), followed by Asia and the Pacific (+5%) and Europe (+4%). By sub-region, North America (+9%) and South Asia (+8%) were the star performers, as well as Southern and Mediterranean Europe, North-East Asia and Northern Europe (all +7%).
“In view of this trend, international tourism is set to end 2014 with record numbers”, said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “These are remarkable results considering that different parts of the world continue to face significant geopolitical and health challenges, while the global economic recovery remains rather fragile and uneven”, he added.
“More importantly, we see a growing political commitment to the tourism sector in many countries. This is encouraging, not in the least because tourism is one of the sectors that is best able to deliver on employment at a moment when job creation need to be a priority to all”, he added.
The Americas: the best results of the last decade
The Americas (+8%) led growth during the first ten months of 2014, rebounding significantly on last year’s subdued results. This is the region’s best performance since 2004, when international tourism also rebounded strongly, following the 2003 SARS outbreak. All sub-regions – North America, the Caribbean, Central America and South America –doubled the growth rates of 2013, with particularly positive results in North America in view of the extraordinary performance of Mexico and the United States.
International arrivals in Asia and the Pacific increased by 5% (through October), consolidating the region’s growth trend of recent years. The best results came from South Asia (+8%), led by India (+7%), and from North-East Asia (+7%) where major destinations such as Japan and the Republic of Korea registered double-digit growth. Arrivals in Oceania grew by 6% owing mostly to the increase of arrivals in Australia and New Zealand. In South-East Asia (+2%), growth slowed down compared to 2012 and 2013 as a result of the decline in arrivals registered in Thailand.
Europe, the most visited region in the world, posted a 4% increase in international tourist arrivals through October, with strong results in Northern Europe and in Southern Mediterranean Europe (both +7%), where established destinations such as Greece, Portugal, Spain and Malta recorded robust growth. International tourism grew at a more modest pace in Western Europe (+2%) and was stagnant in Central and Eastern Europe (0%), in stark contrast with the last three years, during which arrivals grew at an average of 8% a year.
International tourist arrivals in the Middle East are estimated to be up by 4% (in the first ten months of 2014), rebounding on the declines registered since 2011. All destinations in the region with data available report positive growth, with Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia all substantially improving their performance as compared to 2013.
Africa’s international tourist numbers grew by 3% (through October) with North Africa consolidating its recovery (+2%). Sub-saharan Africa’s arrivals were up by 3% despite the challenges of the Ebola Disease Outbreak in a few West African countries. Data for Africa and the Middle East, nonetheless, should be read with caution as it is based on limited and volatile data for these regions.
UNWTO will release preliminary 2014 full year results for international tourist arrivals by January 27, 2015.