International tourism remains on track to reach a “milestone” of one billion travellers by the end of the year, according to new estimates.
Demand continues to show resilience despite concerns over the global economy and is on track to surpass the 990 million figure achieved in 2011.
The number of international tourists worldwide grew by 5% or 22 million to a record 467 million in the first half of the year over the same period in 2011, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation said.
“Although a slight slowdown in growth can be expected for the rest of the year, international arrivals are forecast to exceed one billion by the end of 2012,” the organisation added.
Secretary general Taleb Rifai told a global tourism economy forum in Macao: “Amid the current economic uncertainty, tourism is one of the few economic sectors in the world growing strongly, driving economic progress in developing and developed countries alike and, most importantly, creating much needed jobs.”
But he added: “As we lead up to the milestone of one billion, we need to ensure that the tourism sector is supported by adequate national policies and that we work to reduce existing barriers to the expansion of the sector, such as complicated visa procedures, increased direct taxation or limited connectivity.”
Outbound tourism growth was significant in China (+30%), Russia (+15%), US (+9%), Japan (+8%) Germany (+6%) and Canada (+6%). But growth was comparatively slow or negative in the UK, Australia, Italy and France, the UNWTO said.
Asia led global tourism growth with arrivals up by 8%, boosted by a recovery of Japanese inbound and outbound tourism as well as by the continued strong performance of other major source markets throughout the region.
Rifai said: “Although Asia was affected by the economic crisis of 2008-2009 due to its strong linkages with other economies, the region has bounced back quickly and is today a leader in the global economy. This is clearly reflected in its tourism figures.”
International arrivals to Europe rose by 4% to Europe, the most visited destination in the world, in the first six months of the year despite continuing economic volatility in the eurozone. Demand in Southern and Mediterranean Europe slowed in the period.
Many destinations in central and eastern Europe saw double-digit growth, while Western Europe was up by 5%.
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