Global tourist traffic grew by 5 per cent, reaching almost 500 million, with Asia-Pacific region registering the highest growth during the first half of 2013 from the same period last year, the World Tourism Organisation has said.
Destinations around the world witnessed an estimated 494 million visitors in the first six months of 2013, representing an increase of 5 per cent or an additional 25 million international tourists compared to the same period of 2012, the UN agency said.
Asia-Pacific region witnessed the highest growth of 6.0 per cent, boosted by the increase in arrivals to South-East Asia, up by 12 per cent, followed by Europe at 5.0 per cent despite the lingering economic difficulties.
Africa saw 4.0 per cent growth while the results were weaker than anticipated in the Americas where the arrivals grew by 2 per cent, as South America and the Caribbean lagged behind.
UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, said the growth in arrivals reflects growing importance of 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," Rifai said.
Emerging economy destinations saw stronger growth of 6 per cent, 2 per cent more than that by advanced economies, a trend which has marked the sector for many years now, it said.
The agency said that in a still uneven global economic environment, results were positive in all regions and sub regions, though the overall picture was mixed.
The Middle East rebounded after two years of negative growth with an estimated increase in international arrivals of 13 per cent.
Emerging economy outbound markets continue to drive growth, it said, adding that China and Russia, which saw an increase of 31 per cent and 23 per cent respectively, led the growth in expenditure on travel abroad among the top ten most important source markets in the world.
Outside the top ten, Brazil is back with a 15 per cent increase after a more moderate 2012.
Growth is expected to continue in the second half of 2013 but at a gradually slower pace, it said.
UNTWO has forecast that overall growth will amount