UNWTO’s long term forecast issued in 2010 indicated the 1,4 billion mark would be reached in 2020, yet the remarkable growth of international arrivals in recent years has brought it two years ahead.
UNWTO estimates that worldwide international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) increased six percent to 1,4 billion in 2018, clearly above the 3,7 percent growth registered in the global economy.
In relative terms, the Middle East (+10 percent), Africa (+ seven percent), Asia and the Pacific and Europe (both at + six percent) led growth in 2018. Arrivals to the Americas were below the world average (+ three percent).
UNWTO’s long-term forecast published in 2010 predicted the 1,4 billion mark of international tourist arrivals for 2020. Yet stronger economic growth, more affordable air travel, technological changes, new businesses models and greater visa facilitation around the word have accelerated growth in recent years.
International tourist arrivals in Europe reached 713 million in 2018, a notable six percent increase over an exceptionally strong 2017. Growth was driven by Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+ seven percent), Central and Eastern Europe (+ six percent) and Western Europe (+ six percent). Results in Northern Europe were flat due to the weakness of arrivals to the UK.
Asia and the Pacific (+ six percent) recorded 343 million international tourist arrivals in 2018. Arrivals in South-East Asia grew seven percent, followed by North-East Asia (+ six percent) and South Asia (+ five percent). Oceania showed more moderate growth at + three percent.
The Americas (+ three percent) welcomed 217 million international arrivals in 2018, with mixed results across destinations. Growth was led by North America (+ four percent), and followed by South America (+ three percent), while Central America and the Caribbean (both minus two percent) reached very mixed results, the latter reflecting the impact of the September 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Data from Africa points to a seven percent increase in 2018 (North Africa at +10% and Sub-Saharan + six percent), reaching an estimated 67 million arrivals.
The Middle East (+10%) showed solid results last year consolidating its 2017 recovery, with international tourist arrivals reaching 64 million.