Skift Take

Southern Europe and Southeast Asia are posting the biggest tourism gains this year, according to new data. But the United States is rebounding after 2017 was dominated by fears of a "Trump slump," and that's good news for the travel industry.

International tourism arrivals worldwide have grown faster than some destinations can keep up with during the last decade, which probably isn’t news to many in the travel industry.

But what may come as a surprise is that the United States is fueling some of that growth, considering concerns that a Trump slump and strong U.S. dollar might have caused some international tourists to book trips elsewhere during the last two years.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization’s report on international tourism arrivals for the first six months of 2018 shows that global arrivals grew 6 percent year-over-year from January to June. The strong half-year results come after a record year for global tourism arrivals in 2017, when arrivals grew 7 percent and more than 1.3 billion people crossed international borders.

While Southern Europe and Southeast Asia had the highest growth (both 9 percent), North America’s arrivals grew 5 percent. The organization attributes much of the growth in that region to U.S. arrivals. South America had 7 percent growth and the Americas overall grew 3 percent.

The U.S. turnaround is significant given North America’s arrivals were up only 2 percent for full-year 2017. The tourism organization, in part, blamed the United States for contributing to the region’s poor showing last year. In September, the U.S. National Travel & Tourism Office announced that it had fixed a glitch at U.S. airports that prevented it from accurately collecting international visitor data in recent years. As a result, the office said international arrivals grew 2 percent in 2017.

International arrivals to the United States were up 6.6 percent from January to April, the most recent months for which data is available, according to data from the U.S. National Travel & Tourism Office.

Overall, Europe and Asia-Pacific arrivals both grew about 7 percent from January to June, while the Middle East and Africa grew 5 and 4 percent, respectively.

“We continue to work with our many partners to translate this growth into better jobs, more benefits to societies, and more opportunities for sustainable livelihoods and destinations,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, in a statement.

The organization said 45 percent of the year’s tourism arrivals typically occur from January to June, while 55 percent occur from July to December. The organization projects a strong finish to 2018, albeit at a slower growth rate than the first half of the year.

Global tourism arrivals have grown about 4 percent between 2010 and 2017, and last year’s results and the half-year results for 2018 are certainly above average. The 2018 numbers include preliminary data for some regions and countries, and full-year results including the northern hemisphere’s June to August summer travel season will give a fuller picture.


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Tags: international tourism, tourism, unwto

Photo credit: Tourism arrivals in North America grew 5 percent year-over-year from January to June. Pictured are tourists at Twin Peaks in San Francisco. InSapphoWeTrust / Flickr

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