International tourist arrivals grew by 4 per cent in 2012 to reach 1.035 billion, according to the latest United Nations World Tourism Organization World Tourism Barometer. Emerging economies (plus 4.1 per cent) regained the lead over advanced economies (plus 3.6 per cent), with Asia and the Pacific showing the strongest results. Growth is expected to continue in 2013 only slightly below the 2012 level (plus 3 per cent to plus 4 per cent) and in line with the organisation’s long term forecast.
With an additional 39 million international tourists, up from 996 million in 2011, international tourist arrivals surpassed 1 billion (1.035 billion) for the first time in history in 2012. Demand held well throughout the year, with a stronger than expected fourth quarter.
By region, Asia and the Pacific (plus 7 per cent) was the best performer, while by sub-region South-East Asia, North Africa (both at plus 9 per cent) and Central and Eastern Europe (plus 8 per cent) topped the ranking.
“2012 saw continued economic volatility around the globe, particularly in the Eurozone. Yet international tourism managed to stay on course,” said United Nations World Tourism Organization Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.
“The sector has shown its capacity to adjust to the changing market conditions and, although at a slightly more modest rate, is expected to continue expanding in 2013. Tourism is thus one of the pillars that should be supported by governments around the world as part of the solution to stimulating economic growth,” he added.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization forecasts international tourist arrivals to increase by 3 per cent to 4 per cent in 2013, much in line with its long term forecast for 2030: plus 3.8 per cent a year on average between 2010 and 2020. This outlook is confirmed by the United Nations World Tourism Organization Confidence Index. Compiled among more than 300 experts worldwide, the Index shows that prospects for 2013 are similar to the evaluation of last year (124 points for 2013 against 122 for 2012).
By region, prospects for 2013 are stronger for Asia and the Pacific (plus 5 per cent to plus 6 per cent), followed by Africa (plus 4 per cent to plus 6 per cent), the Americas (plus 3 per cent to plus 4 per cent), Europe (plus 2 per cent to plus 3 per cent) and the Middle East (0 per cent to plus 5 per cent).
Emerging economies regain the lead
In 2012, growth was stronger in emerging economies (plus 4.1 per cent) as compared to advanced economies (plus 3.6 per cent), a trend which has marked the sector for many years now.
International tourist arrivals to Europe, the most visited region in the world, were up by 3 per cent; a very positive result in view of the economic situation, and following a strong 2011 (plus 6 per cent). Total arrivals reached 535 million, 17 million more than in 2011.
By sub-region, Central and Eastern Europe destinations (plus 8 per cent) experienced the best results, followed by Western Europe (plus 3 per cent). Destinations in Southern Mediterranean Europe (plus 2 per cent) consolidated their excellent performance of 2011 and returned in 2012 to their normal growth rates.
Asia and the Pacific (plus 7 per cent) was up by 15 million arrivals in 2012, reaching a total 233 million international tourists. South-East Asia (plus 9 per cent) was the best performing sub-region much due to the implementation of policies that foster intraregional cooperation and coordination in tourism. Growth was also strong in North-East Asia (plus 6 per cent), as Japanese inbound and outbound tourism recovered, while it was comparatively weaker in South Asia (plus 4 per cent) and in Oceania (plus 4 per cent).
The Americas (plus 4 per cent) saw an increase of 6 million arrivals, reaching 162 million in total. Leading the growth were destinations in Central America (plus 6 per cent), while South America, up by 4 per cent, showed some slowdown as compared to the double-digit growth of 2010 and 2011. The Caribbean (plus 4 per cent), on the other hand, is performing above the previous two years, while North America (plus 3 per cent) consolidated its 2011 growth.
Africa (plus 6 per cent) recovered well from its setback in 2011 when arrivals declined by 1 per cent due largely to the negative results of North Africa. Arrivals reached a new record (52 million) due to the rebound in North Africa (plus 9 per cent as compared to a 9 per cent decline in 2011) and to the continued growth of Sub-Saharan destinations (plus 5 per cent). Results in the Middle East (-5 per cent) improved after a 7 per cent decline in 2011, yet the region recorded an estimated 3 million international tourist arrivals less in 2012 in spite of the clear recovery in Egypt.
Receipts confirm positive trend in arrivals
Available data on international tourism receipts and expenditure for 2012 covering at least the first nine months of the year confirm the positive trend in arrivals.
Among the top ten tourist destinations, receipts were up significantly in Hong Kong (China) (plus 16 per cent), the USA (plus 10 per cent), the UK (plus 6 per cent) and Germany (plus 5 per cent). At the same time, a significant number of destinations around the world saw receipts from international tourism increase by 15 per cent or more – Japan (plus 37 per cent), India and South Africa (both plus 22 per cent), Sweden and the Republic of Korea (both plus 19 per cent), Thailand (plus 18 per cent) and Poland (plus 16 per cent).
Traditional source markets show renewed dynamism
Although the highest growth rates in expenditure abroad among the ten top markets came from emerging economies – China (plus 42 per cent) and Russia (plus 31 per cent) – important traditional source markets, showed particularly good results. In Europe, and despite economic pressures, expenditure on international tourism by Germany held well at plus 3 per cent, while the UK (plus 5 per cent) returned to growth after two flat years.
In the Americas, both the USA and Canada grew at 7 per cent. On the other hand, France (-7 per cent) and Italy (-2 per cent) registered declines in travel expenditure.
Smaller markets with significant growth were Venezuela (plus 31 per cent), Poland (plus 19 per cent), Philippines (plus 17 per cent), Malaysia (plus 15 per cent), Saudi Arabia (plus 14 per cent), Belgium (plus 13 per cent), Norway and Argentina (both plus 12 per cent), Switzerland and Indonesia (both plus 10 per cent).