2018 international tourist arrivals reach 1.4 billion two years ahead of forecasts
International tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) grew 6 percent in 2018 to 1.4 billion, consolidating 2017 strong results and proving to be the second strongest year for the sector since 2010, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.
The long-term forecast of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) issued in 2010 indicated the 1.4 billion mark would be reached in 2020, yet the remarkable growth of international arrivals in recent years has brought it two years ahead.
According to the UNWTO, stronger economic growth, more affordable air travel, technological changes, new businesses models and greater visa facilitation around the word have accelerated growth in recent years.
In relative terms, the Middle East (up by 10 percent), Africa (up by 7 percent), Asia and the Pacific and Europe (both recording a 6 percent increase) led growth in 2018. Arrivals to the Americas were below the world average (up by 3 percent).
“The growth of tourism in recent years confirms that the sector is today one of the most powerful drivers of economic growth and development,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.
As underlined by the UNWTO, the six percent increase in tourist arrivals in 2018 is clearly above the 3.7 percent growth registered in the global economy.
“It is our responsibility to manage it (tourism) in a sustainable manner and translate this expansion into real benefits for all countries, and particularly, to all local communities, creating opportunities for jobs and entrepreneurship and leaving no one behind, Pololikashvili said, adding that the UNWTO is focusing 2019 on education, skills and job creation.
UNWTO: Growth expected in 2019
For this year, UNWTO forecasts a 3-4 percent increase, in line with the historical growth trend.
As a general backdrop, the stability of fuel prices tends to translate into affordable air travel while air connectivity continues to improve in many destinations, facilitating the diversification of source markets. Trends also show strong outbound travel from emerging markets, especially India and Russia but also from smaller Asian and Arab source markets.
At the same time, the global economic slowdown, the uncertainty related to the Brexit, as well as geopolitical and trade tensions may prompt a “wait and see” attitude among investors and travellers.
Overall, the UNWTO said that 2019 is expected to see the consolidation among consumers of emerging trends such as the quest for “travel to change and to show”, “the pursuit of healthy options” – such as walking, wellness and sports tourism – and “multigenerational travel” as a result of demographic changes and more responsible travel.
“Digitalisation, new business models, more affordable travel and societal changes are expected to continue shaping our sector, so both destination and companies need to adapt if they want to remain competitive,” the UNWTO Secretary-General said.