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Point of Interest
Taleb Rifai, secretary general of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation. 

Exports from international tourism rise 4% in 2015

International tourism receipts in destinations around the world grew by 3.6 per cent in 2015, in line with the 4.4 per cent increase in international arrivals. For the fourth consecutive year, international tourism grew faster than world merchandise trade, raising tourism's share in world's exports to seven per cent in 2015. The total export value from international tourism amounted to US$1.4 trillion.

Income generated by international visitors on accommodation, food and drink, entertainment, shopping and other services and goods reached an estimated US$1,232 billion (€1,110 billion) in 2015, an increase of 3.6 per cent, accounting for exchange-rate fluctuations and inflation. International tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) increased by 4.4 per cent in 2015, reaching a total of 1,184 million.

Alongside international tourism receipts (the travel item of the balance of payments), international tourism generated US$210 billion in exports through international non-resident passenger transport services, bringing the total value of tourism exports up to US$1.4 trillion or US$4 billion a day on average.

"Tourism is today a major category of international trade in services," said UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai, addressing the 60th Regional Commission for the Americas meeting in Havana, Cuba. "Despite a weak and slow economic recovery, spending on international tourism grew significantly in 2015, proving the sector's relevance in stimulating economic growth, boosting exports and creating jobs for an increasing number of economies worldwide," he added.

International tourism represents seven per cent of total world exports and 30 per cent of services exports. The share of tourism in overall exports of goods and services increased from six per cent to seven per cent in 2015 as, for the fourth consecutive year, international tourism outgrew world merchandise trade, which grew 2.8 per cent in 2015 according to recent data reported by the World Trade Organization.

As a worldwide export category, tourism ranks third after fuels and chemicals and ahead of food and automotive products. In many developing countries, tourism ranks as the first export sector.

Unusually strong exchange-rate fluctuations in 2015 seriously influenced receipts for individual destinations and regions, expressed in current US dollars. Taking into account exchange-rate fluctuations and inflation, receipts in the Americas, Asia and the Pacific and the Middle East all grew by four per cent, while in Europe they grew by three per cent, and in Africa by two per cent.


The Caribbean, Central and South America showed strong growth in international tourism receipts.

The Americas continued to enjoy robust results both in international arrivals and receipts in 2015, with a strong US dollar fuelling outbound travel from the United States and benefiting many destinations across the region. The Caribbean, Central America and South America all recorded seven per cent growth in receipts, while North America saw a three per cent increase.

"As prices of raw materials have decreased, tourism has shown a strong capacity to compensate for weaker export revenue in many commodity- and oil-exporting countries," said Rifai. "Tourism is increasingly an essential component of export diversification for many emerging economies as well as several advanced ones," he added.

The United States, China, Spain and France remain the world's top tourism destinations.

The United States (US$178 billion), China (US$114 billion), Spain (US$57 billion) and France (US$46 billion) continue to be the top destinations both in international tourism receipts and tourist arrivals.

The above data is preliminary and subject to revision. The year 2015 has shown some unusual strong appreciation of the US dollar to many currencies, rendering receipts earned in these currencies lower in US dollar terms. Furthermore, China revised both its international tourism receipts and expenditure series substantially in 2015 and retrospectively for 2014 due to methodological changes. 

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