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Sep 15, 2018,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

International tourism: The UNWTO confirms record-breaking figures worldwide in 2017

The World Tourism Organisation has just published its annual figures that show the state of the international tourism market. The sector experienced significant growth worldwide in 2017. Among the standout figures in this study, whose forecasts are optimistic for 2018, is that China is the runaway leader for international travel and France is the world’s most-visited destination in terms of international arrivals.  

International tourism increased by 7% in 2017, according to the latest edition of the UNWTO’s Tourism Highlights, a study published on 27th August by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). This increase is particularly significant in Europe (+8%) and Africa (+9%), reports Tour MagWith 1,323 million visitors – 84 million more than in 2016 – and some 1,600 billion dollars in exports, tourism is now the third largest export category in the world, representing 7% of the world’s exports.


China, the world’s leading outbound travel market


Four out of five international travellers would rather stay in their home region, reports the study. But, those who travel more are generally from regions with a high purchasing power: Europe, Asia and the Pacific, and America. Europeans were found to travel the most, representing 48% of the world’s international arrivals.

But with 258 billion dollars spent in 2017 – a fifth of the world’s total tourist expenditure – China maintains its place as the world’s leader for outbound travel. Next come the United States, spending 13 billion dollars (+9 %). France sits in fifth position, with a 0.8% increase. Russia, meanwhile, has edged back into the top ten, coming 8th thanks to a 30% increase in 2017.


French record for international arrivals


When it comes to visitors, France takes the top spot with 87 million international arrivals in 2017, a 5% increase. With regard to tourist revenue, France is in third place with 61 billion dollars (+9%). The study also showed that Spain has made quite a comeback, climbing back up to second place in 2017 after being somewhat shunned in previous years due to security issues. The country also recorded a 10% increase in revenue, to 68 billion dollars.

The United States, the second most-visited country in 2016, were pushed down into third place this year, suffering a drop of almost 4% with 76 million arrivals in 2017. This did not stop the North American nation from maintaining its place at the top of the rankings in terms of revenue, however, pocketing 211 billion dollars over the year.  


Optimistic forecasts for 2018


Though the year is not yet over, the data from the first few months of 2018 looks promising, with a 6% increase recorded between January and April, according to the WTO. The study points to increases of 8% for Asia and the Pacific, 7% for Europe, 6% for Africa, 4% for the Middle East and 3% for America. Only one area recorded a drop: the Caribbean, which lost 9%, no doubt due to the violent hurricanes it suffered in Autumn 2017.

It is worth noting that the months of January to April, though they correspond to low season in the majority of destinations, are busy for skiing (in the northern hemisphere), summer holidays (in the southern hemisphere), the Easter break and Chinese New Year, with 28% of the year’s arrivals.


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