Demand for international tourism remained robust in 2016 despite challenges, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, UNWTO, has said in its latest report.
The UNWTO, a specialised agency of the United Nations, UN, said international tourist arrivals grew by 3.9 per cent to reach a total of 1.2 billion
According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, some 46 million more tourists, mostly overnight visitors, travelled internationally last year compared to 2015.
The report noted that 2016 was the seventh consecutive year of sustained growth following the 2009 global economic and financial crisis. A comparable sequence of uninterrupted solid growth has not been recorded since the 1960s.
As a result, 300 million more international tourists travelled the world in 2016 as compared to the pre-crisis record in 2008, the report added.
“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.
Analysis of the growth by region revealed that Asia and the Pacific (8 per cent, respectively) led growth in international tourist arrivals in 2016, fuelled by strong demand from both intra- and interregional source markets.
Africa, which recorded 8 per cent growth, enjoyed a strong rebound after two weaker years. In the Americas (4 per cent), the positive momentum continued. Europe, which recorded 2 per cent growth, showed rather mixed results, with double-digit growth in some destinations
offset by decreases in others.
Demand in the Middle East was uneven, with positive results in some destinations, but declines in others.
Meanwhile, experts remain optimistic about 2017 as the latest survey of UNWTO’s Panel of Experts shows continued confidence in 2017, with the large majority of the 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.
Based on current trends, the outlook of the UNWTO Panel of Experts and economic prospects, UNWTO projects international tourist arrivals worldwide to grow at a rate of 3 to 4 per cent in 2017.
Europe is expected to grow at 2 to 3 per cent; Asia and the Pacific, and Africa both at 5 to 6 per cent; the Americas at 4 to 5 per cent; and the Middle East at 2 to 5 per cent, given the higher volatility in the region.
“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,” UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, stated .