People, Travel

Global Tourist Arrivals at Record High

Global Tourist Arrivals at Record High  Global Tourist Arrivals at Record High

The number of international travelers in 2015 has reached a record high. While the number in Europe, Asia, and America grew, in the wake of terror attacks there was a clear decrease in travelers to Northern Africa.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization at a press conference in Madrid on Monday said international tourist arrivals grew by 4.4% in 2015 to 1.18 billion worldwide, despite security concerns. The year 2015 was the sixth in a row of above-average growth in international tourist arrivals, DW reported.

France remained the world’s most popular tourist destination, followed by the United States, Spain and China, according to the Madrid-based body, which tracks the number of tourists who made an overnight stay at an international destination.

China, the US and the UK lead outbound travel growth.

According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, some 50 million more tourists (overnight visitors) traveled to international destinations around the world last year as compared to 2014.

The organization says travel numbers were influenced by the development in currency exchanges, the low oil price, and crisis in several parts of the world.

Growth in advanced economy destinations (+5%) exceeded that of emerging economies (+4%), boosted by the solid results of Europe (+5%).

By region, Europe, the Americas and Asia and the Pacific all recorded around 5% growth in 2015. Arrivals to the Middle East increased by 3% while in Africa, limited data available, points to an estimated 3% decrease, mostly due to weak results in North Africa, which accounts for over one third of arrivals in the region.

 “Short-Term Effect”

Following several terrorist attacks in tourist areas in Tunisia and Egypt there was a decline of some 8% in the number of travelers in Northern Africa.

“Terrorist attacks in tourist areas have a short-term effect on international travel at the most”, UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai said at the press conference. He added the terror threat was now on a global scale.

He called on governments to increase security and appealed to people not to cancel travel because of fear of attacks.

China was once again the top source country for international tourists, which benefitted Asian destinations such as Japan and Thailand, as well as the United States and several European nations, AFP quoted the UN body as saying.

Chinese travelers were also the biggest spenders last year with China posting double-digit growth in tourism expenditure every year since 2004.

By contrast expenditure from Russia and Brazil declined “significantly” last year “reflecting the economic constraints in both countries and the depreciation of the ruble and the real against virtually all other currencies”, the UN body said in a statement.

The UNWTO expects international tourist travel to grow by about 4% in 2016.