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Brexit Uncertainty, Thomas Cook Collapse Slowed 2019 Global Tourism Growth

Although all regions saw a rise in international arrivals last year, various factors including the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the collapse of Thomas Cook, contributed to a slower growth for international tourism in 2019, according to the latest World Tourism Barometer by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

According to the UNWTO, 1.5 billion international tourist arrivals were recorded in 2019, globally – a 4 percent increase on the previous year, confirming tourism as a leading and resilient economic sector.

However, uncertainty surrounding Brexit, the collapse of Thomas Cook, geopolitical and social tensions and the global economic slowdown all contributed to a slower growth in 2019, when compared to the exceptional rates of 2017 and 2018. This slowdown affected mainly advanced economies and particularly Europe and Asia and the Pacific.

According to the barometer, the Middle East emerged as the fastest-growing region for international tourism arrivals in 2019, growing at almost double the global average (+8 percent), followed by Asia and the Pacific (+5 percent). Europe, where growth was also slower than in previous years (+4 percent), continues to lead in terms of international arrivals numbers, welcoming 743 million international tourists last year (51 percent of the global market). The Americas followed with international arrivals up by +2 percent.

Against a backdrop of global economic slowdown, tourism spending in 2019 continued to grow, most notably among the world’s top ten spenders. France reported the strongest increase in international tourism expenditure among the world’s top ten outbound markets (+11 percent), while the United States (+6 percent) led growth in absolute terms, aided by a strong dollar.

Looking ahead, according to the barometer, growth of 3 to 4 percent is predicted for 2020, an outlook reflected in the latest UNWTO Confidence Index which shows a cautious optimism: 47 percent of participants believe tourism will perform better and 43 percent at the same level of 2019.

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