Global tourism grows 4%

MADRID, Spain, 22 January 2020: Global tourist arrivals reach 1.5 billion in 2019 according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.

It represents a 4% increase on the previous year and the 10th consecutive annual growth. The same rate is also forecast for 2020, confirming tourism as a leading and resilient economic sector, especially in view of current uncertainties.

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 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.

Forecasting future trends, UNWTO says tourism should grow 3% to 4% in 2020, an outlook reflected in the latest UNWTO Confidence Index, which indicates cautious optimism.

The index showed 47% of participants believe tourism will perform better and 43% at the same level as of 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.

The Middle East emerged as the fastest-growing region for international tourism arrivals in 2019, growing at almost double the global average (+8%).

Growth in Asia and the Pacific slowed down but still showed above-average growth, with international arrivals up 5%.

Europe, where growth was also slower than in previous years (+4%), continues to lead in terms of international arrivals numbers, welcoming 743 million international tourists last year (51% of the global market). The Americas (+2%) 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 (+4%) points to continued strong results in North Africa (+9%) while arrivals in Sub-Saharan Africa grew slower in 2019 (+1.5%).

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 (+11%), while the United States (+6%) 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% in the first half of 2019, though expenditure fell 4%.

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