Int’l Arrivals Grew 3.9% In 2016, Reaching 1.2 Billion

Open Jaw

International tourist arrivals grew by 3.9% to reach a total of 1.235 billion in 2016, despite a tumultuous year studded by terror attacks and conflicts in some of the world’s most popular destinations.

According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, 46 million more tourists (overnight visitors) travelled internationally last year compared to 2015.

That marked the seventh consecutive year of sustained growth following the 2009 global economic and financial crisis. The UNWTO says a comparable sequence of uninterrupted solid growth has not been recorded since the 1960s.

“Tourism has shown extraordinary strength and resilience in recent years, despite many challenges, particularly those related to safety and security. Yet, international travel continues to grow strongly and contribute to job creation and the wellbeing of communities around the world,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai.

By region, Asia and the Pacific (+8%) led growth in international tourist arrivals in 2016, fuelled by strong demand from both intra- and interregional source markets. Africa (+8%) enjoyed a strong rebound after two weaker years. Positive momentum also continued in the Americas (+4%), while Europe (+2%) showed rather mixed results, with double-digit growth in some destinations offset by substantial decreases in others. Demand in the Middle East (-4%) was also uneven, with positive results in some destinations, but declines in others.

Recalling that 2017 has been designated by the United Nations the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, Rifai said: “We need to work closer together to harness the contribution of tourism to economic growth, social inclusion, cultural and environmental preservation and mutual understanding, particularly when we live in times with such a deficit of respect and tolerance.”

The latest survey of UNWTO’s Panel of Experts shows continued confidence in 2017, with the large majority (63%) of the 300 respondents expecting ‘better’ or ‘much better’ results than in 2016. The Panel score for 2017 virtually equals that of 2016, so growth is expected to be maintained at a similar level.

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