MADRID — International tourist arrivals rose 4% in 2015, hitting a record high of 1.2 billion for the year, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.
Some 50 million more tourists (overnight visitors) travelled to international destinations around the world last year, versus 2014.
Last year also marked the sixth consecutive year of above-average growth, with international arrivals increasing by 4% or more every year since the post-crisis year of 2010.
“International tourism reached new heights in 2015,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai. “The robust performance of the sector is contributing to economic growth and job creation in many parts of the world.”
Demand was strong overall, though with mixed results across individual destinations due to unusually strong exchange rate fluctuations, the drop in oil prices and other commodities which increased disposable income in importing countries but weakened demand in exporters, as well as increased safety and security concerns.
The year’s results were influenced by exchange rates, oil prices and natural and manmade crises in many parts of the world, added Rifai.
Growth in advanced economy destinations (+5%) exceeded that of emerging economies (+4%), boosted by the solid results of Europe (+5%).
By region, Europe, the Americas and Asia and the Pacific all recorded around 5% growth in 2015. Arrivals to the Middle East increased by 3% while in Africa, limited data available, points to an estimated 3% decrease, mostly due to weak results in North Africa, which accounts for over one third of arrivals in the region.
Europe arrivals reached 609 million, or 29 million more than in 2014. Central and Eastern Europe (+6%) rebounded from last year’s decrease in arrivals. Northern Europe (+6%), Southern Mediterranean Europe (+5%) and Western Europe (+4%) also recorded sound results.
Asia and the Pacific (+5%) recorded 13 million more international tourist arrivals last year to reach 277 million, with uneven results across destinations. Oceania (+7%) and South-East Asia (+5%) led growth, while South Asia and in North-East Asia recorded an increase of 4%.
International tourist arrivals in the Americas (+5%) grew nine million to reach 191 million, consolidating the strong results of 2014.
International tourist arrivals in the Middle East grew by an estimated 3% to a total of 54 million, consolidating the recovery initiated in 2014.
Limited available data for Africa points to a 3% decrease in international arrivals, reaching a total of 53 million. In North Africa arrivals declined by 8% and in Sub-Saharan Africa by 1%, though the latter returned to positive growth in the second half of the year.
A few leading source markets have driven tourism expenditure in 2015 supported by a strong currency and economy.
Among the world’s top source markets, China, with double-digit growth in expenditure every year since 2004, continues to lead global outbound travel.
By contrast, expenditure from the previously very dynamic source markets of the Russian Federation and Brazil declined significantly, reflecting the economic constraints in both countries and the depreciation of the ruble and the real against virtually all other currencies.
As for the traditional advanced economy source markets, expenditure from the United States (+9%), the world’s second largest source market, and the United Kingdom (+6%) was boosted by a strong currency and rebounding economy. Spending from Germany, Italy and Australia grew at a slower rate (all at +2%), while demand from Canada and France was “rather weak”, according to the report.