(Newsroom America) -- Recording an almost four per cent increase over the same period last year, the first nine months of 2016 witnessed 956 million international tourists travelling to different parts of the world, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said.
According to the latest edition of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, all regions of the world except the Middle East saw increasing numbers of tourists.
The Asia-Pacific region reported a 9.3 per cent growth, followed by Africa (8.3 per cent), the Americas (4.4 per cent) and Europe (1.6 per cent). The arrivals in the Middle East fell by 6.4 per cent.
“Tourism is one of the most resilient and fastest-growing economic sectors but it is also very sensitive to risks, both actual and perceived,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.
“As such, the sector must continue to work together with governments and stakeholders to minimize risks, respond effectively and build confidence among travellers,” he added.
Mr. Rifai also called for increased cooperation in addressing global threats, especially those related to safety and security and to make tourism an integral part of emergency planning and response.
The UNWTO chief’s call is particularly timely given that on Wednesday, Ministers from around the world will be meeting in London to discuss safe, secure and seamless travel, an event held on the side-lines of the World Travel Market.
“Real crises are often magnified or distorted by misperception and affected destinations are facing important challenges, although at the global level demand remains strong. We need to support these countries in restoring confidence, as doing so will benefit the entire tourism sector and society as a whole,” noted Mr. Rifai.
According to UNWTO, after a strong start of the year, growth was slower in the second quarter of 2016 to pick up again in the third.
Strong demand for outbound travel
The great majority of leading source markets in the world reported increases in international tourism expenditure during March-September period.
Among the top five source markets, China, the world’s top source market, continued to drive demand, with double-digit growth in spending (19 per cent increase). Similarly, robust results also came from the United Kingdom (10 per cent), the United States (9 per cent), Germany (5 per cent), and France (3 per cent).
Tourism spending also grew notably in Australia, the Republic of Korea, Italy, Egypt, Argentina, Spain, India, Thailand, Ukraine, Ireland and Norway.
Expenditure, however declined in Russia (negative 37 per cent) and Canada (negative 2 per cent).
Positive prospects for October-December
The UN agency also reported that prospects remained positive for the last quarter of 2016 according to its Confidence Index.
“The members of the UNWTO Panel of Tourism Experts are confident about the September-December period, mostly in Africa, the Americas and Asia and the Pacific,” it said.
“Experts in Europe and the Middle East are somewhat more cautious.”
The agency’s World Tourism Barometer, a regular publication, monitors short-term evolution of tourism and provides the sector with relevant and timely information on observations and trends.