The northern hemisphere’s summer travel season has ended and while we don’t have the number of international tourist arrivals for June to August, we do know that Western Europe and the Caribbean in particular had slower visitor growth for the first half of 2016 compared to last year.
That’s according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) which tracks tourist arrivals in destinations around the world. While overall international, overnight tourist arrivals are up four percent year-over-year for January to June — 561 million, 21 million more than the same period in 2015 — it’s clear that global headlines about terrorism, Zika virus and stronger and weaker currencies impacted travelers’ decisions to visit certain regions (see chart below).
Europe’s drop-off in arrivals growth is most apparent in the second quarter when all sub-regions saw smaller growth than second quarter 2015. The second quarter 2016 followed a terrorist attack in Paris in November 2015 and included multiple attacks in Turkey and Belgium. Europe’s overall growth was the smallest of any other region (2.6 percent) for January to June and Western Europe is at the center of that. That sub-region, which includes countries such as France, Spain, Italy and the UK, only had 0.7 growth in its tourist arrivals, -2 percent for the second quarter and -3.5, -0.7 and -2.0 percent growth for April, May and June, respectively. Southern Europe also experienced negative growth during the second quarter (-0.9 percent).
Tourist arrivals grew across the Caribbean and Latin America despite a Zika virus epidemic, which began in 2015 in Brazil and other parts of South America, causing tens of thousands of cases in countries throughout the region. Though that growth isn’t as robust as the first half of 2015. The Caribbean, for example, had 6.3 and 2.2 percent growth in the first and second quarters, respectively, compared to 7.6 and 7.2 percent growth during the first and second quarters 2015. The decline is more pronounced in South America where growth was nine percent for the first quarter compared to 17.5 percent a year ago.
North America, including the U.S. and Canada, also saw softening. International arrivals to North America grew 4.9 and 2.7 percent during the first and second quarters compared to 5.1 and 5.9 percent for the same periods last year. Asia-Pacific was one of the only regions to post solid growth and had nine percent more international visitors than the first half of 2015 with much of that growth driven by arrivals in Southeast Asia.
Global pressures like terrorism and Zika haven’t negatively impacted every sector of travel. Carnival Corporation, for example, the world’s largest cruise company with 10 brands, said earlier this week that sailings in North America and Europe haven’t taken a hit this year.
Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the UNWTO, told Skift his summer that the global travel industry has always dealt with disasters, disease and economic woes like it’s seeing this year. “[Travel] may be halted in certain destinations for a short period of time,” said Rifai. “But if these destinations are well established in the tradition of receiving people and have the right infrastructure and the right expertise then in the immediate and long-term it comes back even stronger than it was. This has been our experience in many, many destinations all over the world…[Travelers] may alter their plans, they may postpone them a bit here and there, but the phenomena of traveling at the international level is going to continue to grow.”
At the same time, Europe, for example, suffered more setbacks during the summer such as the Brexit vote in late June, a terror attack at Istanbul’s Airport and a military coup in Turkey, terror attacks in Nice, France and Munich, Germany in July and in North America the Zika virus spread to Miami in August. If tourism arrivals were already weaker this year without a shaky summer season in play it’s difficult to imagine record tourism growth in regions like Europe and Latin America for full-year 2016.
Percent Growth in International Tourism Arrivals by Region, Year-Over-Year
|Region||Total Growth January-June, 2016||Q1 2016||Q2 2016||Q1 2015||Q2 2015||Q3 2015||Q4 2015|