International tourism: strong peak season anticipated
Demand for international tourism remained strong in the first four months of 2014 according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. International tourist arrivals worldwide grew by 5%, the same rate as during the full year 2013. Prospects for the current peak tourism season remain very positive with over 460 million tourists expected to travel abroad in the May-August 2014 period.
Destinations worldwide received some 317 million international tourists (overnight visitors) between January and April 2014, 14 million more than in the same period of 2013. This 5% growth consolidates the already strong increase registered in 2013 (+5%) and is well above the long-term trend projected by UNWTO for the period 2010-2020 (+3.8%).
Growth has been widely spread with nearly all subregions recording increases in international arrivals of 4% or higher. By region, the strongest growth was registered in Asia and the Pacific and the Americas (both +6%), followed closely by Europe and Africa (both at +5%). By subregion, Northern Europe, Southern and Mediterranean Europe, North Africa and South Asia, (all +8%) were the star performers.
“The encouraging start to 2014 and the overall positive sentiment in the sector raise high expectations for the current peak tourism season, benefiting destinations from both advanced and emerging economies,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “The 5% growth in the number of international tourists crossing borders in the first months of 2014 further reflects the impact of the increase in public support to the sector as well as the immense capacity of tourism companies to adapt to changing markets,” he added.
Most destinations share in growth
Asia and the Pacific (+6%) consolidated its growth of recent years, with South Asia (+8%) and North-East Asia (+7%) in the lead.
Growth picked up in the Americas (+6%), with all four subregions showing significant improvement compared to 2013.
Europe, the most visited region in the world, maintained the strength it showed in 2013 with international tourist arrivals growing by 5% through April. Northern Europe and Southern Mediterranean Europe (+8% each) led growth.
Africa’s international tourist numbers grew by 5% as the recovery was consolidated further in North Africa (+8%).
International tourist arrivals in the Middle East are estimated to be down by 4%, though this figure should be taken with caution as it is based on limited available data for the region.
With regard to source markets, international tourism expenditure data for the first part of 2014 indicates that the growth in demand continues to be strong out of emerging markets, in particular from China, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and India. Moreover, demand from advanced markets is strengthening as the economic situation improves gradually, with encouraging growth registered in expenditure from Italy, Australia, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.
Over 460 million international tourist arrivals expected in current peak season
Various indicators point to a strong Northern Hemisphere’s summer peak season. Over 460 million tourists are expected to travel abroad during the four months from May to August, which account on average for 41% of all international tourist arrivals registered in one year.
According to the UNWTO Confidence Index, prospects remain very positive for the period May-August 2014. Confidence has picked up, particularly among the private sector, and improved further in Europe, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific and the Middle East.
Data on international air travel reservations from business intelligence tool ForwardKeys support this outlook with bookings for May-August up by 8% compared to the same period last year, with intraregional and interregional travel equally strong. The highest growth in bookings was recorded in international flight reservations from Asian source markets, followed by the Americas (+8%).
For the full year 2014, international tourist arrivals are expected to increase by 4% to 4.5%, slightly above UNWTO’s long-term forecast of 3.8% per year for the period 2010 to 2020.