Despite challenges in Europe and around the world, people have not been discouraged from travelling, says the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, 2016 started on a strong note for international tourism, with tourist arrivals growing by 5% between January and April. Results were “robust” across almost all sub-regions and many destinations reported double-digit growth.
Prospects for May-August 2016 remain positive and in line with the performance of January-April, with around 500 million tourists expected to travel abroad in the Northern Hemisphere summer holiday peak season. The UNWTO notes that confidence is highest in Europe, followed by the Americas.
More specifically, destinations worldwide received 348 million international tourists (overnight visitors) between January and April 2016, some 18 million more than the same period last year (+5.3%). This follows an increase of 4.6 percent in 2015, and could make 2016 the seventh consecutive year of above-average growth, with international arrivals increasing by four percent or more every year following the crisis in 2009.
“Results show a strong desire to travel and this continues to drive tourism growth. Destinations keep benefitting from solid demand across all world regions despite ongoing challenges, showing that tourism is a dynamic and resilient economic sector,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai.
“Yet, despite these good results, the tragic events of recent months remind us that safety and security remain a major challenge for all. We must continue to work closely together to address this global threat and ensure tourism is an integral part of emergency planning and response at global, regional and national level”, added Mr. Rifai.
By region, Asia and the Pacific (+9%) recorded the highest increase in international arrivals, with all Asian subregions enjoying growth of 7% or above.
Europe (+4%), the world’s most visited region, consolidated its healthy growth of recent years with Northern Europe and Central and Eastern Europe (both at +6%) in the lead, followed by Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+4%) and Western Europe (+3%).
UNWTO forecasts international tourist arrivals to increase by 3.5% to 4.5% over the full year 2016, in line with UNWTO’s long-term projection of 3.8% growth a year for the period 2010 to 2020.
Furthermore, the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union in the recent referendum (‘Brexit’) has raised uncertainty in the market and led to a substantial depreciation of the UK pound Sterling. However, UNWTO does not expect this to have a significant impact on international travel in the short term.