International tourist arrivals reached a total of 1,138 million in 2014, a 4.7 per cent increase over the previous year, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.
For 2015, UNWTO forecasts international tourism to grow by three to four per cent, further contributing to the global economic recovery.
The 4.7 per cent overall increase is the fifth consecutive year of above average growth since the 2009 economic crisis.
“Over the past years, tourism has proven to be a surprisingly strong and resilient economic activity and a fundamental contributor to the economic recovery by generating billions of dollars in exports and creating millions of jobs.
“This has been true for destinations all around the world, but particularly for Europe, as the region struggles to consolidate its way out of one of the worst economic periods in its history,” said UNWTO secretary general, Taleb Rifai, opening the Spain Global Tourism Forum in Madrid.
By region, the Americas (up seven per cent) and Asia and the Pacific (up five per cent) registered the strongest growth, while Europe (up four per cent), the Middle East (up four per cent) and Africa (up two per cent) grew at a slightly more modest pace.
By sub-region, North America (up eight per cent) saw the best results, followed by North-East Asia, South Asia, Southern and Mediterranean Europe, Northern Europe and the Caribbean, all increasing by seven per cent.
As in recent years, the growth in international tourism receipts in 2014 is expected to have followed that of arrivals fairly close (the 2014 results for international tourism receipts will be released in April 2015).
In 2013, international tourism receipts reached US$ 1,187 billion, US$ 230 billion more than in the pre-crisis year of 2008.
Positive outlook for 2015
For 2015, UNWTO forecasts international tourist arrivals to grow between three and four per cent.
By region, growth is expected to be stronger in Asia and the Pacific (up four per cent to five per cent) and the Americas (up four per cent to five per cent), followed by Europe (up three per cent to four per cent).
Arrivals are expected to increase by three per cent to five per cent in Africa and by up to five per cent in the Middle East.
“We expect demand to continue growing in 2015 as the global economic situation improves even though there are still plenty of challenges ahead.
“On the positive side, oil prices have declined to a level not seen since 2009.
“This will lower transport costs and boost economic growth by lifting purchasing power and private demand in oil importing economies.
“Yet, it could also negatively impact some of the oil exporting countries which have emerged as strong tourism source markets,” added Rifai.
The positive outlook for 2015 is confirmed by the UNWTO Confidence Index.
According to the 300 tourism experts consulted worldwide for the Index, tourism performance is expected to improve in 2015, though expectations are less upbeat than a year ago.