The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has recorded that international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) grew by 6% in 2018, totalling 1.4 billion. The increase is clearly above the 3.7% growth registered in the global economy.

The Middle East (+10%), Africa (+7%), Asia and the Pacific and Europe (both at +6%) led growth last year, while arrivals to the Americas were below the world average (+3%).

“The growth of tourism in recent years confirms that the sector is today one of the most powerful drivers of economic growth and development,” said UNWTO secretary-general, Zurab Pololikashvili. “It is our responsibility to manage it in a sustainable manner and translate this expansion into real benefits for all countries, and particularly, to all local communities, creating opportunities for jobs and entrepreneurships and leaving no one behind,” he continued.

The remarkable growth of international arrivals in recent years means that UNWTO’s long-term forecast has hit its target ahead of schedule. The organisation’s long-term forecast published in 2010 indicated that the 1.4 billion mark would be reached in 2020.
Strong economic growth, more affordable air travel, technological changes, new businesses models, greater visa facilitation are all credited with being contributing factors to the growth in international arrivals.

Uncertainty related to Brexit coupled with geopolitical trade tensions and the global economic slowdown, UNWTO is expecting growth in international arrivals to decrease next year to around 3-4%.

“Digitilisation, new business models, more affordable travel and societal changes are expected to continue shaping our sector, so both destination and companies need to adapt if they want to remain competitive,” concluded Pololikashvili.

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