International tourism – strongest half-year results since 2010

Destinations worldwide welcomed 598 million international tourists in the first six months of 2017, some 36 million more than in the same period of 2016. At 6 per cent, growth was well above the trend of recent years, making the current January-June period the strongest half-year since 2010. Visitor numbers reported by destinations around the world reflect strong demand for international travel in the first half of 2017, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. Worldwide, international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) increased by 6 per cent compared to the same six-month period last year, well above the sustained and consistent trend of 4 per cent or higher growth since 2010. This represents the strongest half-year in seven years.

Results are underpinned by robust growth in many destinations and a continuation of the recovery in those that suffered declines in previous years. Of UNWTO regions, growth was strongest in the Middle East (+9 per cent), Europe (+8 per cent) and Africa (+8 per cent), followed by Asia and the Pacific (+6 per cent) and the Americas (+3 per cent).

The first half of the year usually accounts for about 46% of total annual international arrivals, with the second half longer by three days and including the Northern Hemisphere high season months of July and August. Growth was strongest in the Middle East (+9 per cent), Europe (+8 per cent) and Africa (+8 per cent), followed by Asia and the Pacific (+6 per cent) and the Americas (+3 per cent).

“The first half of 2017 shows healthy growth in an increasingly dynamic and resilient tourism market, including a strong recovery in some of the destinations impacted by security challenges last year,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai ahead of the 22nd session of the UNWTO General Assembly, to be held in Chengdu, China, on September 13-16, 2017.

“As explained in my article ‘Tourism: growth is not the enemy; it’s how we manage it that counts’, international travel creates jobs, economic growth and development opportunities for many communities around the world. But this source of prosperity needs to be managed efficiently, for the good of visitors and host communities alike. This year we celebrate the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development (IY2017) to remind destinations and travellers that we must work for a sustainable tourism sector that protects the environment, preserves the cultural heritage of destinations and fosters respect for local communities everywhere,” Rifai added.