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International tourism arrivals up by 52 million in 2013

International tourist arrivals grew by 5 per cent in 2013, reaching a record 1087 million arrivals, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.

Despite global economic challenges, international tourism results were well above expectations, with an additional 52 million international tourists travelling the world in 2013. For 2014, UNWTO forecasts 4 per cent to 4.5 per cent growth – again, above the long term projections.

Demand for international tourism was strongest for destinations in Asia and the Pacific (+6 per cent), Africa (+6 per cent) and Europe (+5 per cent). The leading sub-regions were South-East Asia (+10 per cent), Central and Eastern Europe (+7 per cent), Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+6 per cent) and North Africa (+6 per cent).

“2013 was an excellent year for international tourism” said UNWTO secretary-general, Taleb Rifai. “The tourism sector has shown a remarkable capacity to adjust to the changing market conditions, fuelling growth and job creation around the world, despite the lingering economic and geopolitical challenges. Indeed, tourism has been among the few sectors generating positive news for many economies”, he added.

UNWTO forecasts international arrivals to increase by 4 per cent to 4.5 per cent in 2014, again above its long-term forecast of +3.8 per cent per year between 2010 and 2020. The UNWTO Confidence Index, based on the feedback from over 300 experts worldwide, confirms this outlook with prospects for 2014 higher than in previous years.

“The positive results of 2013, and the expected global economic improvement in 2014, set the scene for another positive year for international tourism. Against this backdrop, UNWTO calls upon national governments to increasingly set up national strategies that support the sector and to deliver on their commitment to fair and sustainable growth”, added Mr Rifai.

2014 regional prospects are strongest for Asia and the Pacific (+5 per cent to +6 per cent) and Africa (+4 per cent to +6 per cent), followed by Europe and the Americas (both +3 per cent to +4 per cent). In the Middle East (0 per cent to +5 per cent) prospects are positive yet volatile.

Europe led growth in absolute terms, welcoming an additional 29 million international tourist arrivals in 2013, raising the total to 563 million. Growth (+5 per cent) exceeded the forecast for 2013 and is double the region’s average for the period 2005-2012 (+2.5 per cent a year). This is particularly remarkable in view of the regional economic situation and as it follows an already robust 2011 and 2012. By sub-region, Central and Eastern Europe (+7 per cent) and Southern Mediterranean Europe (+6 per cent) experienced the best results.

In relative terms, growth was strongest in Asia and the Pacific (+6 per cent), where the number of international tourists grew by 14 million to reach 248 million. South-East Asia (+10 per cent) was the best performing sub-region, while growth was comparatively more moderate in South Asia (+5 per cent), Oceania and North-East Asia (+4 per cent each).

The Americas (+4 per cent) saw an increase of six million arrivals, reaching a total of 169 million. Leading growth were destinations in North and Central America (+4per cent each), while South America (+2 per cent) and the Caribbean (+1 per cent) showed some slowdown as compared to 2012.

Africa (+6 per cent) attracted three million additional arrivals, reaching a new record of 56 million, reflecting the on-going rebound in North Africa (+6 per cent) and the sustained growth of Sub-Saharan destinations (+5 per cent). Results in the Middle East (+0 per cent at 52 million) were rather mixed and volatile.

Among the ten most important source markets in the world, Russia and China clearly stand out. China, which became the largest outbound market in 2012 with an expenditure of US$ 102 billion, saw an increase in expenditure of 28 per cent in the first three quarters of 2013. The Russian Federation, the 5th largest outbound market, reported 26 per cent growth through September.

The performance of key advanced economy source markets was comparatively more modest. France (+6 per cent) recovered from a weak 2012 and the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia all grew at 3 per cent. In contrast, Germany, Japan and Italy reported declines in outbound expenditure.

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