According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s 2018 Tourism Highlights, the total number of international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) grew 7 percent from 2016 to 2017.
International tourist arrivals reached a total of 1.323 billion in 2017, some 84 million more than the previous year and a new record. The sector has now seen uninterrupted growth in arrivals for eight straight years.
2017 was the eighth consecutive year of above- average growth in international tourism following the 2009 global economic crisis. The growth in the travel and tourism industry has been fuelled by the global economic upswing, resulting in strong outbound demand.
By region, Europe and Africa saw bigger than average growth of 8 and 9 percent, respectively. By subregion, North Africa and Southern and Mediterranean Europe saw the greatest increases in 2017, reflecting strong demand for destinations along the Mediterranean.
When looking at sheer numbers, Europe continues to lead with almost half of the world’s total international arrivals, at 671 million. Europe was also home to six of the ten most visited countries in 2017, with France remaining in the lead.
Spain overtook the USA for second place as international tourism to the USA was down almost 4%. When looked at more critically, with the worldwide tourism numbers increasing 7 percent, the drop in the number of international tourist arrivals to the USA, that’s a massive 10 percent difference in one year.
This is the second year in a row the USA has experienced a downturn. Last year there was a drop of 2.4% in the numbers of international tourist arrivals to the USA.
Destinations With the Most International Tourist Arrivals in 2017
- France — 86.9 million (+5.1%)
- Spain — 81.8 m (+8.6%)
- USA — 75.9 m (-3.8%)
- China — 60.7 m (+2.5%)
- Italy — 58.3 m (+11.2%)
- Mexico — 39.3 m (+12.2%)
- U.K. — 37.7 m (+5.1%)
- Turkey — 37.6 m (+24.1%)
- Germany — 37.5 m (+5.2%)
- Thailand — 35.4 m (+8.6%)
The report also highlights that China continues to lead global outbound travel, having spent US$ 258 billion on international tourism last year. This is almost one-fifth of the world’s total tourism spending in 2017, which stood at US$ 1.3 trillion.
Egypt saw the largest percentage increase in international tourism arrivals.
Destinations With Largest Year-over-year Percentage Increase in International Tourist Arrivals (2016 – 2017)
- Egypt — 55.1%
- Togo — 46.7%
- Vietnam — 29.1%
- Palestine — 25.7%
- Niue — 25.4%
- Nepal — 24.9%
- Israel — 24.6%
- Northern Mariana Islands — 24.3%
- (tied) Turkey & Iceland — 24.1%
- Macedonia — 23.5%