Tourism continues to outpace economy

About 1.5 billion international tourist arrivals were recorded in 2019 globally. A 4 per cent increase on the previous year, which is also forecast for 2020, confirming tourism as a leading and resilient economic sector, especially in view of current uncertainties.

According to the first comprehensive report on global tourism numbers and trends of the new decade, the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, this represents the tenth consecutive year of growth.

All regions saw a rise in international arrivals in 2019. However, uncertainty surrounding Brexit, the collapse of Thomas Cook, geopolitical and social tensions and the global economic slowdown all contributed to a slower growth in 2019, when compared to the exceptional rates of 2017 and 2018. This slowdown affected mainly advanced economies and particularly Europe and Asia and the Pacific.

Looking ahead, growth of 3 per cent to 4 per cent is predicted for 2020, an outlook reflected in the latest UNWTO Confidence Index, which shows a cautious optimism: 47 per cent of participants believe tourism will perform better and 43 per cent at the same level of 2019. Major sporting events, including the Tokyo Olympics, and cultural events such as Expo 2020 Dubai are expected to have a positive impact on the sector.

The Middle East has emerged as the fastest-growing region for international tourism arrivals in 2019, growing at almost double the global average (+8 per cent). Growth in Asia and the Pacific slowed down but still showed above-average growth, with international arrivals up 5 per cent.

“The number of destinations earning $1 billion or more from international tourism has almost doubled since 1998,” says UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. “The challenge we face is to make sure the benefits are shared as widely as possible and that nobody is left behind. In 2020, UNWTO celebrates the Year of Tourism and Rural Development, and we hope to see our sector lead positive change in rural communities, creating jobs and opportunities, driving economic growth and preserving culture.”