Over the past few decades, the world travel activities global tourism market has experienced continuous growth and increased diversification, making it one of the fastest-growing economic sectors in the world. The number of international tourist arrivals has steadily increased, from 25 million in 1950 to a total of 1.186 billion in 2015. This growth is expected to continue, and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) forecasts that international tourist arrivals will reach 1.8 billion by 2030.

In addition to this significant market growth, the increasing importance of tourism is also reflected in a number of relevant international processes, most notably the Rio+20 Conference (The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2012, was the third UN conference on sustainable development aimed at reconciling the economic and environmental goals of the global community.

This conference specifically recognized that tourism, if well managed, can make a significant contribution to the three dimensions of sustainable development),2 the SENDAI framework (The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, adopted at the Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, 2015, emphasized the need to link approaches in the tourism sector and disaster management. )

3 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, also known as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), consists of 17 aspirational global goals with 169 targets. Tourism is recognized in Goals 8, 12, and 14 for its ability to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs, particularly by promoting economic growth, creating jobs, fostering local culture, and accelerating the shift toward more sustainable patterns of consumption and production.)

4 Among other things, this underscores the integral role of tourism in our societies.

Latest International Trends in Tourism

Tourism encompasses a range of activities that visitors engage in when they travel to places outside their usual environment and stay there for no more than one year for a primary purpose-whether of business, leisure, or other personal purposes-unless they are employed by an entity located in the country or place visited.

5 Global tourism trends are expressed in terms of the number of international tourist arrivals in destinations, i.e., the number of foreign tourists arriving in a destination and staying there for at least one night.6 2015 was the sixth consecutive year of above-average1 growth in international tourism since the global economic crisis in 2009.

The number of international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) increased by 4.6% in 2015 compared to the previous year (an additional 52 million international tourists), reaching a total of 1.186 billion worldwide. Broken down by the UNWTO region, the Americas and Asia and the Pacific recorded an increase in international tourist arrivals of almost 6% in 2015, while Europe recorded a growth of 5%.

During the same period, tourist arrivals in the Middle East (according to UNWTO classification, the region includes Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the Syrian Arab Republic, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen) increased by 2%, while in Africa they decreased by 3%, mainly due to weak tourist arrivals in North Africa.

UNWTO expects 2016 to be the seventh consecutive year of above-average growth in the tourism sector. The latest Tourism Barometer published by UNWTO7 shows that international tourist arrivals increased by 4% year-on-year between January and September 2016, with destinations around the world receiving 956 million international tourists (overnight visitors) during the same period.

The highest increase in international arrivals between January and September 2016 was recorded in the Asia and Pacific region, up 9% compared to 2015, with robust growth across all Asian sub-regions. UNWTO forecasts that international tourist arrivals will increase by 3.5% to 4.5% by the end of 2016, consistent with the organization’s long-term forecast of 3.8% annual growth for the period 2010-2020.

Inbound Tourism

Tourist arrivals can be either international arrivals, where tourists travel across international borders, or domestic arrivals, where tourists travel within their country. To date, however, reliable data are only available for international arrivals, so this article focuses on international tourist arrivals.

As Figure 1 shows, both international tourist arrivals and tourism receipts have increased since 1995, except for two sharp declines in 2003 (mainly due to the outbreak of the SARS epidemic) and 2009 (due to the global financial crisis).1 The figure also shows the sector’s rapid recovery from the 2009 economic recession and subsequent steady growth in subsequent years. Tourist arrivals have more than doubled over the past 20 years, rising from 527 million international tourist arrivals in 1995 to 1.186 billion arrivals in 2015, and as noted earlier, UNWTO statistics for January-September 2016 indicate that this trend is expected to continue in 2016.

David Mary

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