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Despite rising competition from tourism destinations in Asia and emerging economies, Europe welcomed more than half of all international tourist arrivals in 2012, or 535 million foreign visitors, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

Europe also earned the largest regional share of international tourism receipts, which reached an estimated total of $1075 billion in 2012.

Tourism spending in Europe accounted for 43 percent, or $457 billion, of the 2012 tourism earnings. Last year’s earnings by region are outlined below:

Region Tourism earnings   (US$ billion) Share of Total tourism receipts (%) Growth vs. 2011 receipts (%)
Europe $457 43 2
Asia and the Pacific $323 30 6
Americas $215 20 7
Middle East $47 4 -2
Africa $34 3 5

Although Europe maintains the number one spot, Asia and the Pacific are a close number two.

Year-over-year change in tourism receipts signals this global shift away from Europe and towards Asia. Europe’s tourism receipts increased just 2 percent between 2011 and 2012, the smallest incline after the Middle East’s 2 percent drop, while Asia’s earnings grew 6 percent.

The tourism receipts of individual countries tell a similar story. Five of the ten top tourism earners are European countries with Spain, China, and Italy all in the top five. Only two Asian nations make the list and both are technically part of China.

Rank Country International tourism receipts (US$ billion) Growth (%) 2012-2011
1 United States 128.6 10.7
2 Spain 55.9 1.2
3 France 53.7 6.7
4 China 50 3.2
5 Italy 41.2 3.8
6 Macao (China) x x
7 Germany 38.1 6.2
8 United Kingdom 36.4 5.2
9 Hong Kong 31.7 14.1
10 Australia 31.5 (-) 0.2

Although European countries are still reporting strong tourism receipts, their earnings are growing at a much slower rate than those countries in the Asia and the Pacific region.

Six of the ten fastest growing tourism earners in 2012 are located in Asia and the Pacific and two others are located in Africa. Only Sweden and Finland make the list from Europe.

Rank Country Growth (%) 2012-2011
1 Japan 32.9
2 Thailand 25.3
3 India 21.8
4 South Africa 18.4
5 Vietnam 18
6 Sweden 17
7 Finland 16.4
8 Egypt 14.2
9 Hong Kong (China) 14.1
10 Republic of Korea 13.6

 

Tags: tourism, unwto
Photo Credit: The sun sets behind a monument in Alcalá de Henares, a small city near the Spanish capital of Madrid, whose historical centre is one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. Sitio do Neto / Flickr