By Irene Gaitirira
Published January 26, 2017
Despite safety and security challenges, Some 300 million more international tourists travelled the world in 2016 compared to the pre-2009 global economic and financial crisis. This was the seventh consecutive year of sustained growth following the 2009 global financial crisis.
United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) reports that international tourist arrivals grew by 3.9% to hit the 1.235 million mark.
After two weaker years, Africa enjoyed a strong rebound in its tourism arrival that matched that of Asia and the Pacific at 8%. While the Middle East registered a 4% growth and Europe made away with 2%, the Americas experienced a 4% increase in their international tourist arrivals.
In specific figures, Africa added 4 million arrivals to reach 58 million. Sub-Saharan Africa registered the highest growth (11%) while gradual recovery started in politically-troubled North Africa that saw a growth rate of 3%.
International tourist arrivals in the Americas grew by 8 million to reach 201 million. “Growth was somewhat stronger in South America and Central America (both +6%), while the Caribbean and North America recorded around 4% more arrivals,” UNWTO says.
Arrivals decreased by an estimated 4% in the Middle East that received 54 million international tourists in 2016.
“Tourism has shown extraordinary strength and resilience in recent years, despite many challenges, particularly those related to safety and security. Yet, international travel continues to grow strongly and contribute to job creation and the wellbeing of communities around the world”, says Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of UNWTO.“We need to work closer together to harness the contribution of tourism to economic growth, social inclusion, cultural and environmental preservation and mutual understanding, particularly when we live in times with such a deficit of respect and tolerance.”
Saying that its report is based on limited available data, UNWTO says it is continuing to collect data for a more comprehensive report in the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer in April 2017.
Whatever the outcome, experts remain optimistic about 2017 that has been declared the United Nations as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.