World tourism hits one billion in 2012

One billion tourists have travelled the world in 2012, marking a new record for international tourism – a sector that accounts for one in every 12 jobs and 30 per cent of the world’s services exports.

On the symbolic arrival date of the one-billionth tourist on Thursday, 13 December, The United Nations World Tourism Organization revealed the actions tourists can take to ensure their trips benefit the people and places they visit, as voted by the public.

International tourism has continued to grow this year despite global economic uncertainty, the organisation said. The figure cements tourism’s position as one of the world’s largest economic sectors, accounting for 9 per cent of global GDP (direct, indirect and induced impact), one in every 12 jobs and up to 8 per cent of the total exports of the world’s least developed countries.

Recalling the positive impact even the smallest action can have if multiplied by one billion, the organisation launched the “One Billion Tourists: One Billion Opportunities” campaign to celebrate this milestone, showing tourists that respecting local culture, preserving heritage or buying local goods when travelling can make a big difference. The public was asked to vote for the “Travel Tip” that would have the greatest benefit for the people and places they visit and to pledge to follow that tip when travelling.

The winning tip, revealed on the arrival date of the one billionth tourist, was “Buy Local”, encouraging tourists to buy food and souvenirs locally or hire local guides to ensure their spending translated into jobs and income for host communities. A close second, “Respect Local Culture” called on tourists to learn more about their destination’s traditions or some words in the local language before leaving home.

“Today, we welcome the symbolic arrival of the one-billionth tourist” said United Nations World Tourism Organization Secretary-General Taleb Rifai. “Your actions count. That is our message to the one billion tourists. Through the right actions and choices, each tourist represents an opportunity for a fairer, more inclusive and more sustainable future.”

As it is impossible to know exactly where the actual one-billionth tourist arrived, many countries celebrated the occasion by welcoming tourists arriving on 13 December.

The World Tourism Organization celebrated in Madrid, Spain, home to its headquarters, by welcoming the symbolic one-billionth tourist in the Museo del Prado, Madrid’s most-visited tourism attraction, together with the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism of Spain.

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