A new report from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) showed that 2018 was a very good year for global tourism, with 1.4 billion worldwide traveler arrivals.
The UNWTO didn’t expect that figure until 2020, and it occurred in part due to stronger economic growth, greater visa facilitation, and more affordable air travel.
“The growth of tourism in recent years confirms that the sector is today one of the most powerful drivers of economic growth and development,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.
According to the report, tourism to the Middle East and Africa grew above the six-percent world average, year over year, with a 10-percent increase in the Middle East and a seven-percent jump in Africa. Asia and the Pacific and Europe both grew by six percent.
Statistics also showed the Americas growing below the world average, with a three-percent increase. International arrivals in Central America and the Caribbean both slid by two percent, with the Caribbean hit hard by the impact of the September 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria.
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The agency’s forecast for this year is expected to be more in line with international tourism’s historical growth trends of 3-4 percent.
It said that Brexit uncertainty, an economic slowdown, geopolitical and trade tensions may mean more of a “wait and see” approach to travel in 2019. However, stable fuel prices, improved air connectivity, and strong outbound travel from emerging markets will be positive indicators for the year.