International tourist arrivals up four per cent in the first half of 2016
International tourist arrivals worldwide grew by four per cent between January and June 2016 compared to the same period last year. Destinations worldwide received 561 million international tourists (overnight visitors), 21 million more than in 2015, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.
Asia and the Pacific demonstrated renewed strength this first half of 2016, receiving nine per cent more international arrivals, the highest growth across world regions.
Led by Central and South America, which saw an increase of four per cent in international arrivals the Americas, destinations such as Europe (+3 per cent) showed mixed results, with solid growth in many countries offset by weaker performance in others.
In Africa (+5 per cent), Sub-Saharan destinations rebounded strongly, while North Africa continued to report weak results. Limited data for the Middle East points to an estimated decrease of nine per cent in international arrivals this six-month period, though results vary from destination to destination.
"Tourism has proven to be one of the most resilient economic sectors worldwide. It is creating jobs for millions at a time when providing perspectives for a better future to people of all regions is one of our biggest challenges. But tourism is also creating bonds among people of all nations and backgrounds, bringing down stereotypes and fighting fear and distrust," said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai.
"Safety and security are key pillars of tourism development, and we need to strengthen our common action to build a safe, secure and seamless travel framework. This is no time to build walls or point fingers; it is time to build an alliance based on a shared vision and a joint responsibility," he added.
Growth accelerated in Asia and the Pacific with international arrivals up nine per cent through June, driven by robust intraregional demand. Oceania (+10 per cent) led growth, followed by North-East Asia, South-East Asia (both +9 per cent) and South Asia (+7 per cent).
International tourist arrivals to Europe grew by three per cent between January and June 2016, with mixed results across destinations. Northern, Central and Eastern Europe both recorded five per cent more international arrivals. Though many destinations posted positive results, growth in both Western Europe (+1 per cent) and Southern Mediterranean Europe (+2 per cent) was slow.
International arrivals in the Americas were up four per cent in the first half of the year, in line with the world average. Strong US outbound flows continued to benefit many destinations across the region. Central America and South America (both +6 per cent) led growth, while arrivals in both the Caribbean and North America grew by four per cent.
Comparatively limited data available for Africa points to a five per cent increase in international arrivals, with Sub-Saharan Africa (+12 per cent) recovering vigorously, but North Africa down by nine per cent. International arrivals in the Middle East decreased by an estimated nine per cent, with mixed results among destinations.
POSITIVE PROSPECTS FOR THE SECOND HALF OF THE YEAR
The first half of the year typically accounts for around 46 per cent of the total international arrivals count of the year. For the remainder of 2016 prospects are positive overall. Countries that have already reported results until July or August show continued growth in the current Northern Hemisphere summer peak season. The UNWTO Panel of Experts evaluated the period May-August also favourably and remains confident about the September-December period, in line with the trend of the first half of the year. Confidence is highest in Africa, the Americas and Asia and the Pacific, while experts in Europe and the Middle East are somewhat more cautious.
DEMAND FOR TRAVEL VARIES ACROSS SOURCE MARKETS
China, the world's top source market, continues to report double-digit growth in expenditure on international travel (+20 per cent in the first quarter of 2016), benefiting destinations in the region and beyond. The United States, the world's second-largest market, increased expenditure on outbound travel by eight per cent through July, thanks to a strong currency. Third-largest market, Germany, reported a four per cent increase in expenditure through July. Other markets that showed robust demand for outbound travel in the first half of 2016 were Spain (+20 per cent), Norway (+11 per cent), Australia (+10 per cent) and Japan (+6 per cent). Meanwhile, expenditure from the Russian Federation and Brazil continues to be weak, reflecting the economic constraints and depreciated currencies in both markets.