Global tourist arrivals grew by 5% in the first eight months of the year to hit a record 747 million, driven by strong results in Europe, Asia/Pacific and the Middle East.
This was 38 million more than in the same period of 2012, according to the latest figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.
Demand for international tourism maintained strength throughout the northern hemisphere peak season after a solid start to the year.
The peak summer months saw international arrivals top the 125 million mark in both July and August, while in June the 100 million figure was exceeded for the first time.
Europe (up 5%) benefited the most from the growth of tourism in the January-August period, with an estimated 20 million more arrivals in the region. Central and Eastern Europe (+7%) and Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+6%) performed particularly well.
UNWTO secretary general Taleb Rifai (pictured), speaking at the opening of the European Tourism Forum in Vilnius, said: “While global economic growth is in low gear, international tourism continues to produce above average results in most world regions, offering vital opportunities for employment and local economies.
“This is particularly important for Europe, where unemployment is a major concern in many destinations and where the tourism sector has been a source of job growth in the last decade.
“Furthermore, through its value chain, tourism creates businesses and jobs in many other sectors and produces significant export revenues which contribute favourably to the balance of payments in many countries.”
Among the 25 largest international tourism earners, receipts grew by double-digits in Thailand (+27%), Hong Kong (+25%), Turkey (+22%), Japan (+19%), the UK (+18%), Greece (+15%), India (+14%), Malaysia (+12%) and the US (+11%).
Emerging economies continue to lead international tourism expenditure, with all BRIC countries except India, reporting double-digit growth.
China posted an “extraordinary” 31% increase in spending, while Russia (+28%) and Brazil (+15%) also saw a sound increase during the period, according to the UNWTO.
Tourism spending was slower in the advanced economy source markets of Canada (+4%), the UK (+2%), France (+2%), the US (+1%) and Germany (0%), while Japan, Australia and Italy saw declines in expenditure.
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