According to the annual barometer of the WTO, international tourist arrivals increased by 4.4% in 2015 to reach a total of 1 billion 181 million stays, or 50 million more than in 2014. This is the 6th consecutive year of growth by more than the average of 4% in the past 10 years.
In the WTO's annual report, Taleb Rifai, its Secretary General, explains: "2015 results were influenced by exchange rates, oil prices and natural and manmade crises in many parts of the world. As the current environment highlights in a particular manner the issues of safety and security, we should recall that 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."
Behind this global growth is an imbalance that persists between growth in advanced economic destinations (+5%) and other developing regions. As a result, Europe, the Americas and Asia-Pacific all showed occupancy rates of around 5% in 2015. Arrivals in the Middle East were up by 3%. In Africa, limited data available suggests a drop estimated at 3%, mostly due to weak results in North Africa, which represents more than one third of arrivals in the region.
For 2016, the regions where the strongest growth may be expected are Asia-Pacific (+4% to +5%) and the America (+4% to +5%), followed by Europe (+3.5% to +4.5%). Forecasts for Africa (+2% to 5%) and the Middle East (+2% to +5%) are positive, but subject to a high degree of uncertainty and instability.
As far as regional results for 2015 are concerned, Europe leads growth in absolute and relative terms, supported by a euro that is weaker than the US dollar and other main currencies. Arrivals were up to 609 million, or 29 million more than in 2014. Central and Eastern Europe (+6%) improved after the drop in arrivals the previous year. Northern Europe (+6%), Southern Mediterranean Europe (+5%) and Western Europe (+4%) also recorded sound results, especially considering the many mature destinations they comprise.
Asia-Pacific (+5%) increased by 13 million international tourist arrivals last year to reach 277 million, with imbalanced results across destinations. Oceania (+7%) and South-East Asia (+5%) obtained better scores, while South Asia and North-East Asia posted 4% growth.
International arrivals in the Americas (+5%) increased by 9 million, to reach 191 million, consolidating the strong results (+8%) of 2014. The appreciation of the US dollar encouraged outbound travel from the United States, which benefited the Caribbean and Central America where 7% growth was posted. Results in South America (+5 %) and North America (+4%) were close to average.
International tourist arrivals in the Middle East grew by an estimated 3%, to reach a total of 54 million, consolidating the recovery begun in 2014.
The limited data available for Africa suggest a 3% drop in international arrivals to a total of 53 millions. Arrivals are down by 8% in North Africa and 1% in Sub-Saharan Africa, although in the case of the latter, growth was positive again in the second semester. (Results for Africa and the Middle East should be read cautiously as they are based on limited data.)
China, the United States of America and the United Kingdom show the strongest growth in foreign travel in 2015
Among the primary source markets worldwide, China continues to lead the global ranking as far as travel abroad is concerned benefiting Asian destinations such as Japan and Thailand, but also the United States and various European destinations .
Inversely, we have seen a considerable drop in spending by the Russian Federation and Brazil, which were previously very dynamic supply markets, following economic constraints in these two countries and the depreciation of the ruble and the real against nearly all other currencies.
As for the traditional advanced economy source markets, spending from the United States (+9%), the world's second largest source market, and the United Kingdom (+6%) was boosted by a strong currency and rebounding economy. Spending from Germany, Italy and Australia grew at a slower rate (all at +2%), while demand from Canada and France was rather weak.
- International tourism continues growth in 2015
- In 2015, 109 million Chinese traveled outside of the country
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