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Int’l Tourist Arrivals Up 3.9% in 2016, Experts Optimistic About 2017

International tourist arrivals grew by 3.9 percent to reach a total of 1,235 billion, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. Some 46 million more tourists (overnight visitors) travelled internationally last year compared to 2015.

“Demand for international tourism remained robust in 2016 despite challenges”, the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said on Tuesday when presenting the results.

According to the UNWTO, 2016 was the seventh consecutive year of sustained growth following the 2009 global economic and financial crisis. A comparable sequence of uninterrupted solid growth has not been recorded since the 1960s. As a result, 300 million more international tourists travelled the world in 2016 as compared to the pre-crisis record in 2008. International tourism receipts grew at a similar pace in this period (complete 2016 receipts results will be reported in May).

“Tourism has shown extraordinary strength and resilience in recent years, despite many challenges, particularly those related to safety and security”, said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai. “Yet, international travel continues to grow strongly and contribute to job creation and the wellbeing of communities around the world.”

By region, Asia and the Pacific (+8 percent) led growth in international tourist arrivals in 2016, fuelled by strong demand from both intra- and interregional source markets. Africa (+8 percent) enjoyed a strong rebound after two weaker years. In the Americas (+4 percent) the positive momentum continued. Europe (+2 percent) showed rather mixed results, with double-digit growth in some destinations offset by decreases in others. Demand in the Middle East (-4 percent) was also uneven, with positive results in some destinations, but declines in others.

Experts remain optimistic about 2017

The latest survey of UNWTO’s Panel of Experts shows continued confidence in 2017, with the large majority (63 percent) of the some 300 respondents expecting ‘better’ or ‘much better’ results than in 2016. The Panel score for 2017 virtually equals that of 2016, so growth is expected to be maintained at a similar level.

Based on current trends, the outlook of the UNWTO Panel of Experts and economic prospects, UNWTO projects international tourist arrivals worldwide to grow at a rate of 3 to 4 percent in 2017. Europe is expected to grow at 2 to 3 percent, Asia and the Pacific and Africa both at 5 to 6 percent, the Americas at 4 to 5 percent and the Middle East at 2 to 5 percent, given the higher volatility in the region.

Recalling that 2017 has been designated by the United Nations the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, Mr. Rifai said “we need to work closer together to harness the contribution of tourism to economic growth, social inclusion, cultural and environmental preservation and mutual understanding, particularly when we live in times with such a deficit of respect and tolerance.”

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