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Tourism enjoys continued growth, generates USD 5 billion per day


[FILES] UNWTO Secretary General, Zurab Pololicashvili

Latest UNWTO report shows that international tourist arrivals grew 5per cent in 2018 to reach the 1.4 billion mark, two years ahead of the World Tourism Organisation’s long-term forecasts, according to the UNWTO International Tourism Highlights, 2019 Edition. At the same time, export earnings generated by tourism grew to USD 1.7 trillion, an increase of 4 per cent, outpacing the world economy in 2018.

Total export earnings from international tourism grew by 4 per cent in real terms in 2018. In addition to the USD 1.5 trillion in receipts that destinations earned, international tourism generated another USD 256 billion from international passenger transport taken by non-residents. This raised total tourism exports to USD 1.7 trillion, or USD 5 billion a day.

Released as the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) prepares to meet for its 23rd General Assembly in Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation, this yearly report provides a consolidated analysis of international tourism. 2018 was the ninth consecutive year of sustained growth and tourism now represents 7 per cent of global exports, growing at a faster rate than merchandise exports for the last seven years.

“This latest edition of our Highlights demonstrates the strength and potential of the tourism sector,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.


“These results were driven by a favourable economic environment, a growing middle class in emerging economies, technological advances, new business models, increased air capacity, affordable travel costs and visa facilitation. UNWTO is committed to ensuring that this continued growth is managed in a responsible and sustainable way and tourism is rightly seen as a key driver of social and economic development, job creation and equality,” he added.

Other key findings from the UNWTO International Tourism Highlights 2019 shows that Asia and the Pacific and Africa led growth in arrivals with a 7 per cent increase in 2018, while Asia and the Pacific and Europe enjoyed above-average growth in tourism earnings.

Among the world’s top 10 destinations in arrivals and receipts, France continued to lead in international tourist arrivals, while the United States remained the largest tourism earner in 2018. Japan entered the top 10 earners ranking following seven years of double-digit growth in international tourism receipts. The top-10 tourism earners account for almost half of total tourism receipts, while the top 10 destinations in arrivals receive 40 per cent of worldwide arrivals.

According to the report, China remained the world’s largest spender, with USD 277 billion spending on international tourism in 2018 or one-fifth of international tourism expenditure, followed by the United States.

The report also shows that 58 per cent of all international tourists arrive to their destinations by air. The share of air travel has increased from 46 per cent in 2000 to 58% in 2018. Also, the share of leisure travel has grown from 50 per cent in 2000 to 56 per cent in 2018. Leisure travel is the main purpose of visit in all world regions except the Middle East, where visiting friends and relatives (VFR), or for health or religious purposes predominates.

Meanwhile, Buenos Aires has become the latest city to join the International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories (INSTO), a pioneering initiative of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) aimed at helping destinations manage tourism in a smart and sustainable manner.

This latest INSTO member – the first in Argentina – brings the total number of observatories in the global network to 27. Joining INSTO will help the Tourism Observatory of Buenos Aires better monitor the environmental and social impacts of tourism at the local level. Data collected by the observatory will be used to strengthen the sustainability of the city’s tourism sector and help guide policy and decision-making.

The Observatory has led the way in developing a destination-wide Tourism Intelligence System, which consists of a digital and interactive platform for compiling and visualizing data from a huge range of sources. Through this dynamic tool, which is based on a Big Data Infrastructure, the Observatory is transforming information into useful knowledge for both the public and private sector, generating essential evidence for tourism planning and management.

“By becoming the latest member of our dynamic INSTO network, the city of Buenos Aires once again demonstrates its commitment to responsible and sustainable tourism,” says UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. “Thanks to the pioneering work of the Observatory, Buenos Aires is benefitting from an evidence-based approach to tourism policies and I am confident that our newest member will make a positive contribution to our growing INSTO network.”

Gonzalo Robredo, President of the Buenos Aires Tourism Board, added, “By joining the INSTO Network, we reinforce our commitment to maximising the benefits of the tourism activity in the city of Buenos Aires, not only from an economic perspective, but with a focus on the cultural, social and environmental dimensions of tourism.

We believe that sustainability is a key to guaranteeing that tourism has a positive impact on local communities while also providing visitors with an authentic tourist experience.”


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UNWTOZurab Pololikashvili
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