Int’l tourist traffic up by 5% Q1 2013, says UNWTO

Posted: September 4, 2013 in travel & tourism

In a clear indication of tourism boom, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has said that the volume of international tourist traffic grew five per cent to 494 million in the first half of 2013 from the same period last year.

In data released at the just-concluded UNWTO General Assembly which Zambia and Zimbabwe co-hosted, the United Nations agency said the growth had exceeded expectations. “Destinations around the world welcomed an estimated 494 million overnight visitors in the first six months of 2013,” it said.

“This represents an increase of five per cent or an additional 25 million international tourists compared with the same period of 2012.”

Arrivals had been largely expected to grow by three per cent but a stronger performance by emerging economy destinations pushed the jump higher.

The Asia-Pacific region registered the highest growth of 6.0 per cent followed by Europe at 5.0 per cent. Africa came third with a 4.0 per cent growth while the Americas recorded a 2.0 per cent increase in arrivals.

UNWTO Secretary General Taled Rifai said the growth in arrivals was critical and reflected the growing importance of the tourism sector.

“This underlines the need to rightly place tourism as one of the key pillars of socio-economic development, being a leading contributor to economic growth, exports and jobs,” he said.

The UN agency has forecast that overall growth will amount to 4.0 per cent at the end of the year, with the first half expected to account for 45 per cent of the total arrivals.

Rifai noted that the continued growth of global tourist arrivals necessitates countries to adopt tourism as one of key pillars of socio-economic development.

Notably both Zimbabwe and Zambia have placed tourism as one of their four pillars for economic growth. In Zimbabwe, tourism was identified and subsequently pronounced one of the four pillars of the country’s economic turnaround programmes in early 2009.

“The fact that international tourism grew above expectations confirms that travelling is now part of consumer patterns for an increasing number of people in both emerging and advanced economies. This underlines the need to rightly place tourism as one of the key pillars of socio-economic development, being a leading contributor to economic growth, exports and jobs,” said Rifai.

Growth was stronger in emerging economy destinations (+6 percent) than in advanced economies (+4 percent), a trend which has marked the sector for many years now.

In a still uneven global economic environment, results were positive in all regions and sub-regions, though the overall picture was mixed. Europe (+5 percent) performed surprisingly stronger than expected, driven by Central and Eastern Europe (+10 percent) and Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+6 percent).

Asia and the Pacific (+6 percent) also exceeded expectations, boosted by South-East Asia (+12 percent) and South Asia (+7 percent).

On the other hand, results were weaker than anticipated in the Americas (+2 percent), as South America and the Caribbean lagged behind.

The first semester normally accounts for some 45 percent of the total arrivals count of the year (the Northern hemisphere high season months of July and August fall into the second semester).

According to Rifai, growth is expected to continue in the second half of 2013 but at a gradually slower pace.

UNWTO forecasts 2013 to end at 4 percent or slightly above, thus exceeding the initial estimate for the year.


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