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International tourism demand exceeds expectations in the first half of 2013: UNWTO

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ETW StaffMumbai

International tourist arrivals grew by five per cent during the first half of 2013 compared to the same period of 2012, reaching almost 500 million, according to data released by United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). Growth was above the projection made at the beginning of the year (+ three per cent to + four percent) and is also exceeding the trend of the UNWTO long-term outlook Tourism Towards 2030 (+ three point eight per cent a year).

Destinations around the world welcomed an estimated 494 million overnight visitors in the first six months of 2013, according to the Advance Edition of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer released on the occasion of the UNWTO 20th General Assembly. This represents an increase of five per cent or an additional 25 million international tourists compared to the same period of 2012. Growth was stronger in emerging economy destinations (+ six per cent) than in advanced economies (+ four per cent).

Speaking on this, Taleb Rifai, secretary-general of UNWTO stated, “The fact that international tourism grew above expectations confirms that travelling is now part of consumer pattern for an increasing number of people in both emerging and advanced economies. This underlines the need to rightly place tourism as one of the key pillars of socio-economic development, being a leading contributor to economic growth, exports and jobs.”

In a still uneven global economic environment, results were positive in all regions and subregions, though the overall picture was mixed. Europe (+ five per cent) performed surprisingly stronger than expected, driven by Central and Eastern Europe (+10 per cent) and Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+ six per cent). Asia and the Pacific (+ six per cent) also exceeded expectations, boosted by South-East Asia (+12 per cent) and South Asia (+ seven per cent).

On the other hand, results were weaker than anticipated in the Americas (+ two per cent), as South America and the Caribbean lagged behind. The first semester normally accounts for some 45 per cent of the total arrivals count of the year (the Northern hemisphere high season months of July and August fall into the second semester). Growth is expected to continue in the second half of 2013 but at a gradually slower pace. UNWTO forecasts 2013 to end at  four per cent or slightly above, thus exceeding the initial estimate for the year. In Africa (+ four per cent), the growth of recent years was sustained during the first half of 2013 due to the continued recovery of North Africa (+ four per cent) and the positive results of Sub-Saharan destinations (+ four percent). The Middle East rebounded after two years of negative growth with an estimated increase in international arrivals of 13 per cent.

Emerging economy outbound markets continue to drive growth both in emerging and advanced economy destinations. China (+31 per cent) and Russia (+22 per cent) led the growth in expenditure on travel abroad among the top ten most important source markets in the world during the first half of 2013. Outside the top ten, Brazil is back with a 15 per cent increase after a more moderate 2012. Expenditure from traditional markets, on the other hand, was more modest. Canada (+ three per cent) and France (+ two per cent) led the group, followed by the flat results of the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom, and negative figures from Japan, Australia and Italy.