In 2019, 1.5 billion international tourist arrivals were recorded worldwide. It is expected that this 4% increase over the previous year will be repeated in 2020, confirming the position of tourism as a strong and resilient economic sector, especially taking into account current uncertainties. Precisely for this reason, it is necessary to manage growth responsibly and take advantage of the opportunities that tourism can offer communities around the world in the best possible way.
According to the first complete report of world tourism figures and trends of the new decade, the last World Tourism OMT Barometer, this is the tenth consecutive year of growth
In 2019 international arrivals grew in all regions. However, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, the collapse of Thomas Cook, geopolitical and social tensions and the slowdown of the global economy made growth slower in 2019 compared to the exceptional growth rates of 2017 and 2018. This slowdown affected mainly the advanced economies, and especially the regions of Europe and Asia and the Pacific.
For the future, a growth of between 3% and 4% is expected in 2020, a perspective that is reflected in the last UNWTO Confidence Index, which shows prudent optimism: 47% of participants believe that the Tourism will have better results than in 2019 and 43% believe it will remain at the same level. It is expected that some major sporting events, including the Tokyo Olympic Games, and other cultural events, such as the Dubai Expo 2020, will have a positive impact on the sector.
In presenting the results, UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili stressed that “in these times of uncertainty and volatility, tourism remains a reliable economic sector.” In an environment of downward economic perspectives, tensions in international trade, social instability and geopolitical uncertainty, “our sector continues to advance the world economy and demands not only to grow, but to grow better,” he added.
Given tourism’s position as one of the first export and job creation sectors, UNWTO defends the need for responsible growth. Tourism therefore occupies a primary place in world development policies, and can still achieve greater political recognition and effectively influence this “decade of action”, with only ten years ahead to reach the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Middle East in the lead
The Middle East region has been the region with the highest growth in international tourist arrivals in 2019, having almost doubled the world average (+ 8%). Growth in Asia and the Pacific slowed, but continues to show higher than average growth, with a 5% increase in the number of international arrivals.
Europe, where the growth was also lower than in the previous years (+ 4%) is still leading in terms of number of international arrivals, with 743 million international tourists last year (51% of the world market).
The Americas (+ 2%) offered heterogeneous results, since although many Caribbean islands consolidated their recovery after the hurricanes of 2017, at the same time the number of arrivals to South America fell, due in part to social and political unrest. For Africa (+ 4%) limited data are available, but the maintenance of very positive results in North Africa (+ 9%) and lower growth in Sub-Saharan Africa (+ 1.5%) are observed.
Tourism spending maintains its strength
In a context of global economic slowdown, tourism spending continued to grow, especially among the ten countries in the world that spend the most on tourism. France was the country that recorded the highest growth in international tourism spending of the top ten global issuing markets (+ 11%), while the United States (+ 6%) led the growth in absolute terms, aided by the strength of the dollar.
However, some large emerging markets such as Brazil and Saudi Arabia registered a decrease in tourism spending. In China, the world’s first issuing market, outbound trips increased by 14% in the first half of 2019, although spending fell by 4%.
Tourism offers “much needed opportunities”
“The number of destinations that earn US $ 1 billion. or more of international tourism has almost doubled since 1998, ”added Mr. Pololikashvili. “The challenge we face is to ensure that these benefits are distributed as widely as possible and that no one is left behind. In 2020, UNWTO celebrates the Year of Tourism and Rural Development, and we expect our sector to lead a positive change in rural communities, creating employment and opportunities, boosting economic growth and preserving culture. ”
These latest data, which demonstrate the strength and resilience of the tourism sector, come in a year when the United Nations celebrates its 75th anniversary. During 2020, through the UN75 initiative, the United Nations is engaging in the broadest and most inclusive conversation to date on the role of global cooperation in building a better future for all, and tourism has to take a pro Hot on the agenda.