International tourist arrivals reached 1,138 million in 2014, a 4.7% increase over the previous year, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.
Europe consolidates its position as most visited region in the world, reaching a total of 558 million (an increase by 22 million from 2013 until 2014). Mediterranean countries (Portugal, Greece, Spain, etc.) led the growth. Then follow Asia and the Pacific (263 million, +5%), the Americas (181 million) helped by the increase in North America (+8%) and Caribbean (+7%). Finally, Africa (56 million, + 2%) and the Middle East (50 million, +4%).
"Tourism is a fundamental contributor to the economic recovery by generating billions of dollars in exports and creating millions of jobs. This has been true for destinations all around the world, but particularly for Europe, as the region struggles to consolidate its way out of one of the worst economic periods in its history," said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, opening the Spain Global Tourism Forum in Madrid.
Positive outlook for 2015
For 2015, UNWTO forecasts international tourist arrivals to grow between 3% and 4%. "We expect demand to continue growing in 2015 as the global economic situation improves even though there are still plenty of challenges ahead. On the positive side, oil prices have declined to a level not seen since 2009. This will lower transport costs and boost economic growth by lifting purchasing power and private demand in oil importing economies. Yet, it could also negatively impact some of the oil exporting countries which have emerged as strong tourism source markets," added Mr Rifai.
Increased spending on international tourism from traditional source markets compensated for the slowdown of the large emerging markets, which had been driving tourism growth in previous years. The Russian Federation clearly lost strength in 2014 (-6%), while Brazil grew by only 2%. Conversely, spending from the United States, the second largest outbound market in the world, grew by 6%. The rebound of France (+11%), Italy (+6%) and the United Kingdom (+4%) is also noteworthy.
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