Global tourism growth slowed in 2019: UN

22 January, 2020 12:00 AM printer

MADRID: Global tourism slowed in 2019 due to a cooling world economy, especially in Europe and Asia where uncertainties linked to Brexit and protests in Hong Kong also weighed, the United Nation’s tourism agency said Monday.

The number of international tourist arrivals rose by 4.0 percent last year to 1.5 billion, its slowest rate since 2016, the Madrid-based World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said in a statement, reports AFP.

“This is a growth that we can consider strong because it is within the historical average, but we see a slight slowdown compared to the last two years. But it should be noted that the last two years have been really exceptional with a growth that was not normal,” the body’s intelligence chief, Sandra Carvao, told a news conference.

Tourist numbers grew by 6.0 percent in 2018 and by 7.0 percent in 2017 as holidaymakers returned to sunshine destinations in the eastern Mediterranean such as Turkey and Egypt after several years of tourists staying away due to security concerns. Tourism numbers rose by 4.0 percent in 2016.

The UNWTO predicted global tourism will grow by 3.0-4.0 percent this year, buoyed by major sporting and cultural events such as the Tokyo Olympics in Japan.

An economic slowdown in many key issuing markets such as Germany and the collapse of Thomas Cook, the world’s oldest travel form, had contributed to the slowdown in the sector last year, Carvao said.

Britain’s looming departure from the European Union had generated “strong uncertainty” and “has impacted its economy, which has impacted the value of its currency” leading to fewer British nationals going abroad on holidays, she added.

Tourist arrivals in Europe rose by 4.0 percent in 2019, down from 6.0 percent in the previous year.

It remained the most visited region in the world, accounting for 51 percent of all international tourist arrivals last year, or 743 million people.

Arrivals in the Asia-Pacific region rose by 5.0 percent compared to 7.0 percent in 2018 as Hong Kong was rocked by sometimes violent political protests which caused hotel occupancy rates to slump in the Chinese-ruled city.

Africa posted a 4.0-percent rise in tourist arrivals, down from 9.0 percent in 2018.

“The Americas showed a mixed picture as many island destinations in the Caribbean consolidated their recovery after the 2017 hurricanes while arrivals fell in South America due partly to ongoing social and political turmoil,” the UN body’s statement said.