International tourist arrivals grew by 4.4 per cent in 2015 to reach a total of 1,184 million in 2015, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.
Some 50 million more tourists (overnight visitors) travelled to international destinations around the world last year as compared to 2014.
However, attacks by the Islamic State group have led to a fall in tourism in parts of North Africa.
UNWTO show that visits to North Africa fell by eight per cent in 2015, bucking the global upward trend.
Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco were among those to be hard hit.
Beach resorts such as Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, where a passenger jet was loaded with a bomb in November, and Sousse in Tunisia, where gunmen opened fire at holidaymakers in June, have seen visitor numbers sharply decline.
“International tourism reached new heights in 2015.
“The robust performance of the sector is contributing to economic growth and job creation in many parts of the world.
“It is thus critical for countries to promote policies that foster the continued growth of tourism, including travel facilitation, human resources development and sustainability” said UNWTO secretary general, Taleb Rifai.
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.
“Last year’s results were influenced by exchange rates, oil prices and natural and manmade crises in many parts of the world.
“As the current environment highlights in a particular manner the issues of safety and security, we should recall that tourism development greatly depends upon our collective capacity to promote safe, secure and seamless travel.
“In this respect, UNWTO urges governments to include tourism administrations in their national security planning, structures and procedures, not only to ensure that the sector’s exposure to threats is minimised but also to maximise the sector’s ability to support security and facilitation, as seamless and safe travel can and should go hand in hand”, added Rifai.
Growth in advanced economy destinations (up five per cent) exceeded that of emerging economies (up four per cent), boosted by the solid results of Europe (up five per cent).