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International tourist arrivals witness 4% growth

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According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourist arrivals grew by 4.3 per cent in the first eight months of 2015 fuelled by strong results in Europe and consolidating the trend of recent years. International tourists (overnight visitors) travelling the world between January and August 2015 reached 810 million, 33 million more than in the same period of 2014. Europe, the world’s most visited regional destination, recorded a robust five per cent increase in international tourist arrivals, the highest across all regions and a notable result for a rather mature region.

Asia and the Pacific, the Americas and Middle East all enjoyed four per cent growth, while limited data available for Africa points to an estimated five per cent decrease in the number of international tourists.

Taleb Rifai, secretary-general, UNWTO said, “Sustained growth in international tourism is very positive news for all as the sector increasingly contributes to creating jobs, promoting trade and investment, developing infrastructure and fostering inclusive economic growth. This is particularly true in recent years, when tourism has been instrumental in supporting the economic recovery of many countries and in generating new jobs. Yet, we should not be complacent. We need to continue advancing fundamental issues such as travel facilitation and connectivity while placing sustainability at the core of our action. As world leaders prepare to meet in Paris next December for the 21st Session of the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11) and following the approval of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by the UN General Assembly in September 2015, sustainability must be at the forefront of the tourism agenda.”

A very busy summer season contributed to the remarkable results of Europe where international arrivals increased by five per cent between January and August 2015. The euro area continues to benefit from a weaker currency and a sustained economic recovery. Central and Eastern Europe (plus seven per cent) rebounded from last year’s decline. Northern Europe (plus six per cent), Southern Mediterranean Europe (plus five per cent) and Western Europe (plus four per cent) all recorded sound results for subregions with many mature destinations. The 28 countries of the European Union (EU-28) boasted six per cent more arrivals this period, exceeding the regional average.

Asia and the Pacific recorded a four per cent increase in international arrivals through August. Oceania (plus seven per cent) led growth, followed by South-East Asia (plus six per cent), with Thailand showing a strong rebound after weaker results last year. Arrivals grew by four per cent in South Asia and by three per cent in North-East Asia, where Japan continues to show extraordinary growth.

International arrivals in the Americas grew by four per cent between January and August 2015, consolidating last year’s strong results. The appreciation of the US dollar has stimulated outbound travel from the United States. The Caribbean and Central America (both plus seven per cent) saw the highest growth in the region fuelled largely by the US and European markets. Results in South America (plus four per cent) were in line with the regional average, while in North America (plus three per cent) growth was weighed down by weaker arrivals in the United States.

Limited available data for Africa points to a five per cent decline in arrivals, with North Africa decreasing by 10 per cent and Sub-Saharan Africa by three per cent. International tourist arrivals in the Middle East grew by an estimated four per cent, consolidating the recovery that started in 2014. (Data for both Africa and Middle East should be read with caution as it is based on limited available data.)

Although demand has been positive overall, tourism flows have been determined to some extent by the comparatively strong currency fluctuations. Many destinations are benefiting from more favourable exchange rates, while others have become more expensive, but seen their purchasing power abroad increase.

Among the world’s top source markets, China continues to report double-digit growth in outbound travel, benefiting Japan, Thailand, the United States and various European destinations. Among the other emerging markets, India, South Africa and Egypt reported double-digit growth in tourism expenditure. Meanwhile expenditure from the Russian Federation and Brazil was significantly down, reflecting the economic constrains in both markets and the depreciation of the Ruble and the Real against virtually all other currencies.

As for the traditional advanced economy outbound markets, data on international tourism expenditure reveal robust demand from the United States (plus nine per cent) and the United Kingdom (plus five per cent), reflecting the strength of their economies and their currencies. Expenditure from both Germany and Italy grew by three per cent, while demand from France, Canada and Australia was rather weak, partly as a result of the depreciation of their currencies against the US dollar.

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