Demand for international tourism was strongest for destinations in Asia and the Pacific (+ six per cent), Africa (+ six per cent) and Europe (+ five per cent). The leading sub-regions were South-East Asia (+10 per cent), Central and Eastern Europe (+ seven per cent), Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+ six per cent) and North Africa (+ six per cent).
Taleb Rifai, secretary-general, UNWTO, said, 2013 was an excellent year for international tourism. The tourism sector has shown a remarkable capacity to adjust to the changing market conditions, fuelling growth and job creation around the world, despite the lingering economic and geopolitical challenges. Indeed, tourism has been among the few sectors generating positive news for many economies.
UNWTO forecasts international arrivals to increase by four per cent to 4.5 per cent in 2014, again above its long-term forecast of +3.8 per cent per year between 2010 and 2020. The UNWTO Confidence Index, based on the feedback from over 300 experts worldwide, confirms this outlook with prospects for 2014 higher than in previous years.
The positive results of 2013, and the expected global economic improvement in 2014, set the scene for another positive year for international tourism. Against this backdrop, UNWTO calls upon national governments to increasingly set up national strategies that support the sector and to deliver on their commitment to fair and sustainable growth, added Rifai.
2014 regional prospects are strongest for Asia and the Pacific (+ five per cent to + six per cent) and Africa (+ four per cent to + six per cent), followed by Europe and the Americas (both + three per cent to + four per cent). In the Middle East (zero per cent to + five per cent) prospects are positive yet volatile.
Europe led growth in absolute terms, welcoming an additional 29 million international tourist arrivals in 2013, raising the total to 563 million. Growth (+ five per cent) exceeded the forecast for 2013 and is double the regions average for the period 2005-2012 (+2.5 per cent a year). This is particularly remarkable in view of the regional economic situation and as it follows an already robust 2011 and 2012. By sub-region, Central and Eastern Europe (+ seven per cent ) and Southern Mediterranean Europe (+ six per cent) experienced the best results.
In relative terms, growth was strongest in Asia and the Pacific (+ six per cent), where the number of international tourists grew by 14 million to reach 248 million. South-East Asia (+10 per cent) was the best performing sub-region, while growth was comparatively more moderate in South Asia (+ five per cent), Oceania and North-East Asia (+ four per cent each).
The Americas (+ four per cent) saw an increase of six million arrivals, reaching a total of 169 million. Leading growth were destinations in North and Central America (+ four per cent each), while South America (+ two per cent) and the Caribbean (+ one per cent) showed some slowdown as compared to 2012.
Africa (+ six per cent) attracted three million additional arrivals, reaching a new record of 56 million, reflecting the on-going rebound in North Africa (+ six per cent) and the sustained growth of Sub-Saharan destinations (+ five per cent). Results in the Middle East (+ zero per cent at 52 million) were rather mixed and volatile.