Some 50 million more tourists (overnight visitors) travelled to international destinations around the world last year as compared to 2014.
According to the UNWTO, 2015 marks the 6th consecutive year of above-average growth, with international arrivals increasing by 4 percent or more every year since the post-crisis year of 2010.
“International tourism reached new heights in 2015”, said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, in an announcement on Monday.
UNWTO data showed that demand was strong overall, though with mixed results across individual destinations due to unusually strong exchange rate fluctuations, the drop in oil prices and other commodities which increased disposable income in importing countries but weakened demand in exporters, as well as increased safety and security concerns.
“Tourism development greatly depends upon our collective capacity to promote safe, secure and seamless travel. In this respect, UNWTO urges governments to include tourism administrations in their national security planning, structures and procedures, not only to ensure that the sector’s exposure to threats is minimised but also to maximise the sector’s ability to support security and facilitation, as seamless and safe travel can and should go hand in hand”, added Mr Rifai.
Growth in advanced economy destinations (+5 percent) exceeded that of emerging economies (+4 percent), boosted by the solid results of Europe (+5 percent).
By region, Europe, the Americas and Asia and the Pacific all recorded around 5 percent growth in 2015. Arrivals to the Middle East increased by 3 percent while in Africa, limited data available, points to an estimated 3 percent decrease, mostly due to weak results in North Africa, which accounts for over one third of arrivals in the region.
Positive prospects for 2016
Results from the UNWTO Confidence Index remain largely positive for 2016, though at a slightly lower level as compared to the previous two years. Based on the current trend and this outlook, UNWTO projects international tourist arrivals to grow by 4 percent worldwide in 2016.
By region, growth is expected to be stronger in Asia and the Pacific (+4 percent to +5 percent) and the Americas (+4 percent to +5 percent), followed by Europe (+3.5 percent to +4.5 percent). The projections for Africa (+2 percent to 5 percent) and the Middle East (+2 percent to +5 percent) are positive, though with a larger degree of uncertainty and volatility.