Research - AUGUST 30, 2019

Tourism enjoys continued growth, generating $5b per day

by Released

International tourist arrivals grew 5 percent in 2018, to reach the 1.4 billion mark, two years ahead of the World Tourism Organization’s long-term forecasts, according to the UNWTO International Tourism Highlights, 2019
. At the same time, export earnings generated by tourism grew to $1.7 trillion, an increase of 4 percent, outpacing the world economy in 2018.

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

2018 was the ninth consecutive year of sustained growth, and tourism now represents 7 percent 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 Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO secretary-general. “These results were driven by a favorable 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 report include:

  • Asia Pacific and Africa led growth in arrivals with a 7 percent increase in 2018, while Asia 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 percent of worldwide arrivals.
  • China remained the world’s largest spender, with $277 billion spending on international tourism in 2018 or one-fifth of international tourism expenditure, followed by the United States.
  • Four out of five tourists visit a destination in their own region.
  • 58 percent of all international tourists arrive to their destinations by air. The share of air travel has increased from 46 percent in 2000 to 58 percent in 2018.
  • The share of leisure travel has grown from 50 percent in 2000 to 56 percent in 2018. Leisure travel is the main purpose of visit in all world regions except the Middle East, where visiting friends and relatives, or for health or religious purposes predominates.
  • The share of world population requiring a traditional visa declined from 75 percent in 1980 to 53 percent in 2018.
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