International tourist arrivals grew by 7% in 2017 to reach a total of 1.3bn, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.

The increase is well above the growth trend of 4% since 2010 and represents the strongest result in seven years. This result was partly shaped by the global economic upswing and the robust outbound demand from many traditional and emerging source markets, particularly a rebound in tourism spending from Brazil and the Russian Federation.

“International travel continues to grow strongly, consolidating the tourism sector as a key driver in economic development. As the third export sector in the world, tourism is essential for job creation and the prosperity of communities around the world,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili in the report. “Yet, as we continue to grow we must work closer together to ensure this growth benefits every member of every host community, and is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.”

2017 results by UNWTO region

  • Europe reached 671 million international tourist arrivals in 2017, an 8% increase, following a comparatively weaker 2016. Growth was driven by the results in southern and Mediterranean Europe (13%). Western Europe (7%), northern Europe and Central and Eastern Europe (both 5%) also recorded growth.
  • Asia and the Pacific (6%) recorded 324 million international tourist arrivals. Arrivals in south Asia grew 10%, in southeast Asia 8% and in Oceania 7%. Arrivals to northeast Asia increased by 3%.
  • The Americas (3%) recorded 207 million international tourist arrivals. South America (7%) led growth, followed by Central America and the Caribbean (both 4%), with the latter showing clear signs of recovery in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria. In North America (2%), growth in Mexico and Canada contrasted with a decrease in the United States.
  • Africa’s growth is estimated at 8%. The region consolidated its 2016 rebound and reached a record 62 million international arrivals. North Africa saw arrivals increase by 13%, while sub-Saharan Africa arrivals increased by 5%.
  • The Middle East (5%) received 58 million international tourist arrivals.

Growth expected to continue in 2018

Based on current trends, economic prospects and the outlook by the UNWTO Panel of Experts, UNWTO projects international tourist arrivals worldwide to grow at a rate of 4%-5% this year. This is above the 3.8% average increase projected for the period 2010-2020 by UNWTO in its Tourism Towards 2030 long-term forecast.

Europe and the Americas are both expected to grow by 3.5%-4.5%, Asia and the Pacific by 5%-6%, Africa by 5%-7% and the Middle East by 4%-6%.