International tourist arrivals hit 1.5 billion worldwide in 2019, 3.8% up on the previous year, marking a tenth consecutive year of growth, according to the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

All regions of the world saw increased arrivals. However, global growth in travel was more than two percentage points below the 6% rate of 2017 and 2018.

The UNWTO attributed the slowdown to “uncertainty surrounding Brexit, the collapse of Thomas Cook, geopolitical and social tensions and the global economic slowdown”.

It reported the slowdown affected “mainly advanced economies, particularly Europe and Asia Pacific”.

Growth was highest in the Middle East (+8% year on year) and Asia-Pacific (+5%). Europe saw arrivals increase 4% on 2018 to 743 million, or to 51% of the global market.

Tourist arrivals to Southern and Mediterranean Europe rose 5%.

The Americas recorded 2% growth as arrivals to South America fell year on year amid “ongoing social and political turmoil”. But arrivals to the Caribbean were up 5%.

Africa saw overall growth of 4%, but with a sharp difference between the 9% growth in arrivals to North Africa as Tunisia and Egypt recovered and weaker growth of 1.5% in sub-Sahara Africa.

France recorded the sharpest increase (+11%) in international tourism expenditure among the world’s top-10 outbound markets. China reported a 14% increase in outbound trips in the first half of 2019 although spending fell by 4%.

UNWTO secretary general Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Tourism remains a reliable economic sector in times of uncertainty and volatility. Our sector keeps outpacing the world economy.”

Global GDP grew at 3% in 2019.

The UNWTO forecast growth of 3%-4% this year. However, it warned: “Prospects may be affected by a worsening of the economic scenario as well as of current trade and geopolitical tensions.

“Brexit’s impact on Europe could affect euro area countries. Trade, social and geopolitical tensions may affect prospects for Latin America, Asia and the Pacific and the Middle East.”