International tourist arrivals in the first half of 2016 grew by 4% as destinations received 561 million international tourists (overnight visitors), which is 21 million more than in 2015.
According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, Asia and the Pacific demonstrated renewed strength, receiving 9% more international arrivals, the highest growth across world regions.
In the Americas, international arrivals increased 4%, led by Central America and South America.
Europe at 3% growth showed mixed results, with solid growth in many destinations offset by weaker performance in others.
In Africa at 5%, the Sub-Saharan destinations rebounded strongly, while North Africa continued to report weak results.
However, limited data for the Middle East points to an estimated decrease of 9% in international arrivals this six-month period, though results vary from destination to destination.
“Tourism has proven to be one of the most resilient economic sectors worldwide. It is creating jobs for millions, at a time when providing perspectives for a better future to people of all regions is one of our biggest challenges. But tourism is also creating bonds among people of all nations and backgrounds, bringing down stereotypes and fighting fear and distrust”, said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.
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He added that safety and security are key pillars of tourism development and there is need to strengthen common action to build a safe, secure and seamless travel framework.
“This is no time to build walls or point fingers; it is time to build an alliance based on a shared vision and a joint responsibility,” he said.
According to Rifai, the first half of the year typically accounts for around 46% of the total international arrivals count of the year hence for the remainder of 2016 prospects are positive overall.
He said countries that have already reported results till July or August show continued growth in the current Northern Hemisphere summer peak season.
“The UNWTO Panel of Experts evaluated the period May-August also favourably and remains confident about the September-December period, in line with the trend of the first half of the year. Confidence is highest in Africa, the Americas and Asia and the Pacific, while experts in Europe and the Middle East are somewhat more cautious,” he said.
During the period, China, the world’s top source market, continued to report double-digit growth in expenditure on international travel of 20% in the first quarter of 2016), benefiting destinations in the region and beyond.
The United States, the world’s second largest market, increased expenditure on outbound travel by 8% through July, thanks to a strong currency.
Third largest market, Germany, reported a 4% increase in expenditure through July. Other markets that showed robust demand for outbound travel in the first half of 2016 were Spain (+20%), Norway (+11%), Australia (+10%) and Japan (+6%).
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s Walter Mzembi, the Minister of Tourism and the Hospitality Industry is gunning for the post of Secretary General of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
Elections for the new Secretary General will take place during the UNWTO Executive Council meeting to be held in Madrid, Spain, in May 2017.
Mzembi has since received backing from the continent of Africa as the sole candidate to run for the position.
According to a press statement by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), a team headed by deputy minister tourism Anastancia Ndlovu is in Japan ahead of the Japan’s annual international Tourism Fair where over 140 countries participate.
She will also use the platform to canvas support for the post of Secretary General of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
Japan is a member of the UNWTO Executive Council.