INTERNATIONAL. International tourism receipts in destinations around the world grew by +3.6% in 2015, in line with a +4.4% increase in international arrivals, according to figures from the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
Income generated by international visitors on accommodation, food and drink, entertainment, shopping and other services and goods reached an estimated US$ 1,232 billion last year, while there were 1,184 million total international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors).
For the fourth consecutive year, international tourism grew faster than world merchandise trade, raising tourism’s share in world exports to 7% in 2015, and 30% in services exports. The total export value from international tourism amounted to US$1.4 trillion.
“Tourism is today a major category of international trade in services,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai. “Despite a weak and slow economic recovery, spending on international tourism grew significantly in 2015, proving the sector’s relevance in stimulating economic growth, boosting exports and creating jobs for an increasing number of economies worldwide.”
UNWTO said unusually strong exchange rate fluctuations in 2015 influenced receipts for individual destinations and regions. In the Americas, Asia Pacific and the Middle East receipts grew by +4%, while in Europe a +3% increase was recorded. In Africa, receipts were up +2%.
In the Americas, growth was attributed to the fact that a strong US Dollar was fuelling outbound travel from the US and benefiting many destinations across the region. The Caribbean, Central America and South America all recorded +7% growth in receipts, while North America saw a +3% increase.
“As prices of raw materials have decreased, tourism has shown a strong capacity to compensate for weaker export revenue in many commodity- and oil-exporting countries,” said Rifai. “Tourism is increasingly an essential component of export diversification for many emerging economies as well as several advanced ones.”
The US (US$178 billion), China (US$114 billion), Spain (US$57 billion) and France (US$46 billion) were the top destinations both in international tourism receipts and tourist arrivals in 2015, based on preliminary data.
China, the US and the UK (the world’s first, second and fourth largest source markets) led outbound tourism last year, fuelled by their strong currencies and economies, UNWTO said. Spending by Chinese travellers increased +25% in 2015 to reach US$292 billion, as total outbound travellers rose +10% to 128 million.
Tourism expenditure from the US increased by +9% in 2015 to US$120 billion, while the number of outbound travellers grew by +8% to 73 million. Expenditure from the UK increased +8% to US$63 billion with 65 million travellers abroad, up +9%. By contrast Germany, the world’s third largest market, reported a small decline in spending (US$76 billion), partly due to a weaker Euro.
France’s expenditure on outbound tourism reached US$38 billion, Russia’s was US$35 billion and the Republic of Korea’s totalled US$25 billion.