Europe where growth was also slower than in previous years (over four percent) continues to lead in terms of international arrivals numbers, welcoming 743 million international tourists last year. The Americas (over two percent) showed a mixed picture as many island destinations in the Caribbean consolidated their recovery after the 2017 hurricanes while arrivals fell in South America due partly to ongoing social and political turmoil. Limited data available for Africa (over four percent) points to continued strong results in North Africa (over nine percent) while arrivals in Sub-Saharan Africa grew slower in 2019 (over 1.5 percent), unwto.org reported.
A number of 1.5 billion international tourist arrivals were recorded in 2019, globally. A four-percent increase on the previous year, which is also forecast for 2020, confirming tourism as a leading and resilient economic sector, especially in view of current uncertainties. By the same token, this calls for such growth to be managed responsibly so as to best seize the opportunities tourism can generate for communities around the world.
According to the first comprehensive report on global tourism numbers and trends of the new decade, the latest UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Barometer, this represents the tenth consecutive year of growth.
All regions saw a rise in international arrivals in 2019. However, uncertainty surrounding Brexit, the collapse of Thomas Cook, geopolitical and social tensions and the global economic slowdown all contributed to a slower growth in 2019, when compared to the exceptional rates of 2017 and 2018. This slowdown affected mainly advanced economies and particularly Europe and Asia and the Pacific.
Looking ahead, growth of three to four percent is predicted for 2020, an outlook reflected in the latest UNWTO Confidence Index which shows a cautious optimism: 47 percent of participants believe tourism will perform better and 43 percent believed it will be at the same level as 2019. Major sporting events, including the Tokyo Olympics, and cultural events such as Expo 2020 Dubai are expected to have a positive impact on the sector.
Against a backdrop of global economic slowdown, tourism spending continued to grow, most notably among the world’s top ten spenders. France reported the strongest increase in international tourism expenditure among the world’s top ten outbound markets (over 11 percent), while the US (over six percent) led growth in absolute terms, aided by a strong dollar.
However, some large emerging markets such as Brazil and Saudi Arabia reported declines in tourism spending. China, the world’s top source market saw outbound trips increase by 14 percent in the first half of 2019, though expenditure fell four percent.
“The number of destinations earning one billion dollars or more from international tourism has almost doubled since 1998,” said UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili. “The challenge we face is to make sure the benefits are shared as widely as possible and that nobody is left behind. In 2020, UNWTO celebrates the Year of Tourism and Rural Development, and we hope to see our sector lead positive change in rural communities, creating jobs and opportunities, driving economic growth and preserving culture.”
This latest evidence of the strength and resilience of the tourism sector comes as the UN celebrates its 75th anniversary. During 2020, through the UN75 initiative, the UN is carrying out the largest, most inclusive conversation on the role of global cooperation in building a better future for all, with tourism to be high on the agenda.