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International tourism up by five per cent in the first half of the year

International tourist arrivals grew by 4.6 per cent in the first half of 2014, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. Destinations worldwide received some 517 million international tourists between January and June 2014, 22 million more than in the same period of 2013.

Growth was strongest in the Americas (+ six per cent) followed by Asia and the Pacific and Europe (both at + five per cent). By subregion, South Asia and Northern Europe (both + eight per cent) were the best performers, together with North-East Asia and Southern Mediterranean Europe (both + seven per cent).

"These results show that tourism is consolidating the positive performance of recent years, providing development and economic opportunities worldwide", said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. "Indeed, despite geopolitical and economic challenges, the number of international tourist arrivals has grown by five per cent a year on average since 2010, a trend that has translated into more economic growth, more exports and more jobs", he added.

So far, results are in line with the UNWTO forecast issued at the beginning of 2014. For the full year 2014, international tourist arrivals are expected to increase by four per cent to 4.5 per cent worldwide, above UNWTO's long-term forecast of 3.8 per cent per year for the period 2010 to 2020.

The Americas leads growth

Growth picked up significantly in the Americas (+ six per cent). All four subregions benefited, with North America, boosted by Mexico, Central and South America all increasing by six per cent, and the Caribbean by five per cent. In South America (+ six per cent), the hosting of the Football World Cup in Brazil contributed to the positive results in the subregion - receipts from international tourism in Brazil grew by 10 per cent in the first seven months of the year with a 60 per cent increase in June and July.

Asia and the Pacific (+five per cent) consolidated the trend of recent years, with South Asia (+ eight per cent) and North-East Asia (+ seven per cent) in the lead and major destinations such as Japan, the Republic of Korea and Malaysia posting double-digit growth rates. The region has been benefiting from ongoing economic growth, continuous investment in infrastructure and visa facilitation measures.

Europe (+ five per cent), the most visited region in the world, continued the strong pace of growth of 2013, driven so far this year by Northern Europe (+ eight per cent) and Southern Mediterranean Europe (+ seven per cent). These results reflect improved consumer confidence in Europe and the rebound of important traditional European source markets.

Africa's international tourist numbers grew by three per cent as the recovery consolidated in North Africa (+ four per cent). Yet, the current Ebola virus disease outbreak might affect tourism to the region due to misperceptions about the transmission of the virus. "The main focus at the moment is on taking and supporting action to contain the virus. But we must also ensure that misperceptions do not unnecessarily harm the African economy, in particular its travel and tourism sector, which is a central activity in many countries. We would like to stress that the World Health Organisation does not recommend any ban on international travel. Putting a halt on flights or imposing unnecessary travel restrictions will not help contain the virus. On the contrary, these measures will surely dampen the economy of the region, especially its travel and tourism sector, and jeopardise millions of livelihoods", said Rifai.

Middle East tourist arrivals

International tourist arrivals in the Middle East are estimated to be down by four per cent, though this figure should be taken with caution as it is based on limited available data for the region.

Source markets: advanced economies consolidate rebound

In terms of source markets, data for the first half of 2014 shows a consolidation of the rebound in spending in travel abroad registered in 2013 in some advanced economies. Expenditure out of the Italian and Australian markets was up eight per cent and seven per cent, respectively, while the US market was up by five per cent. Data for France and Canada indicates a three per cent increase.

Demand generated by emerging markets also continues to be strong, though decelerating as compared to 2013. Chinese outbound expenditure was up 16 per cent in the first half of the year as compared to 26 per cent in the whole of 2013, while expenditure out of the Russian Federation was up by four per cent as compared to 25 per cent last year. 

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