International tourist arrivals worldwide grew by 5% during the first eight months of 2014 according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. Despite geopolitical challenges and a lingering economic recovery, tourism demand was strong during the northern hemisphere high season of June to August.
International tourists (overnight visitors) travelling the world between January and August 2014 reached 781 million, 36 million more than in the same period of 2013. With a 5% increase, international tourism continued to grow well above the long-term trend projected by UNWTO for the period 2010-2020 (+3.8%). The peak months of June, July and August, which account for about one third of the total of the year, saw an increase of 4% compared to the same months of 2013.
By region, the strongest growth was registered in the Americas (+8%), followed by Asia and the Pacific (+5%) and Europe (+4%). By subregion, North America (+9%) and South Asia (+8%) were the star performers, as well as Southern and Mediterranean Europe, Northern Europe, North-East Asia and South America (all +7%).
“International tourism continues to grow above expectations despite rising global challenges”, said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “Yet, increasing geopolitical uncertainties and the fact that the global economy shows signs of weaker and uneven growth require our attention”, he added.
Commenting on the possible impact of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa on tourism, Mr. Rifai said “Although it is too premature to assess the full impact of the outbreak on the tourism sector, at this point we do not expect a major effect on the sector globally.”
“International tourism in countries where there is widespread transmission (Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone) represents less than 1% of all international arrivals to African destinations. Yet we have to be aware that misperception about the outbreak is affecting the whole of Africa. On the upside, and according to information gathered from our African Member States and key tour operators and associations in major source markets, there are no significant cancellations to report, despite a certain slowdown in bookings”.
Mr. Rifai recalled that the 3rd meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee regarding the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 23 October 2014 “reiterated its recommendation that there should be no general ban on international travel or trade.”
“Most importantly, we need to urgently step up international efforts to support affected countries to contain the outbreak, ensure that WHO recommendations are implemented and provide, at all moments, transparent and timely information to fight misperception and fear, and minimize the spillover effects to the whole region”, he added.