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CONTRIBUTED - New UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili.

International tourist arrivals grew in 2017

International tourist arrivals grew by a remarkable seven per cent in 2017 to reach a total of 1,322 million, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.

This strong momentum is expected to continue in 2018 at a rate of four to five per cent.

Based on data reported by destinations around the world, it is estimated that international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) worldwide increased seven per cent in 2017. This is well above the sustained and consistent trend of four per cent or higher growth since 2010 and represents the strongest results in seven years.

Led by Mediterranean destinations, Europe recorded extraordinary results for such a large and rather mature region, with eight per cent more international arrivals than in 2016. Africa consolidated its 2016 rebound with an eight per cent increase. Asia and the Pacific recorded six per cent growth, the Middle East five per cent, and the Americas three per cent.

2017 was characterised by sustained growth in many destinations and a firm recovery in those that suffered decreases in previous years. Results were partly shaped by the global economic upswing and the robust outbound demand from many traditional and emerging source markets, particularly a rebound in tourism spending from Brazil and the Russian Federation after a few years of declines.

"International travel continues to grow strongly, consolidating the tourism sector as a key driver in economic development. As the third export sector in the world, tourism is essential for job creation and the prosperity of communities around the world." said UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili. "Yet, as we continue to grow, we must work closer together to ensure this growth benefits every member of every host community, and is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals".

Growth expected to continue in 2018

The current strong momentum is expected to continue in 2018, though at a more sustainable pace after eight years of steady expansion following the 2009 economic and financial crisis. Based on current trends, economic prospects and the outlook by the UNWTO Panel of Experts, UNWTO projects international tourist arrivals worldwide to grow at a rate of four to five per cent in 2018. This is somewhat above the 3.8 per cent average increase projected for the period 2010-2020 by UNWTO in its Tourism Towards 2030 long-term forecast. Europe and the Americas are both expected to grow by 3.5 per cent - 4.5 per cent; Asia and the Pacific by five per cent - six per cent; Africa by five per cent - seven per cent; and the Middle East by four per cent - six per cent.

2017 results by UNWTO region

International tourist arrivals in Europe reached 671 million in 2017, a remarkable eight per cent increase following a comparatively weaker 2016. Growth was driven by the extraordinary results in Southern and Mediterranean Europe (13 per cent). Western Europe (seven per cent), Northern Europe and Central and Eastern Europe (both five per cent) also recorded robust growth.

Asia and the Pacific (six per cent) recorded 324 million international tourist arrivals in 2017. Arrivals in South Asia grew 10 per cent, in Southeast Asia eight per cent, and in Oceania seven per cent. Arrivals to Northeast Asia increased by three per cent. 

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