International tourist arrivals grew by 4% between January and August 2012 compared with the same period of 2011 but the UK enjoyed less spectacular growth than some of its rival markets.
Those are some of the findings from the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, which confirmed the resilience of international tourism despite a continued tough economic environment.
There were 28 million more international tourists between January and August 2012 than in the eight months in the previous year, with a record 705 million tourists up to August 2012.
UNWTO said it was confident that one billion international tourists would have made trips all over the world by the end of the year.
"This growth is a very positive result in view of the global economic situation. We must remain cautious, however, as we have also observed some weaker months during the year, a trend that might return in the remainder of the year," said UNWTO secretary general Taleb Rifai.
Growth slowed down in June (+2.7%) and July (+1.4%) compared with the first five months of the year (average of 5%), yet recovered in August at 4%, a positive result for the month that accounts for the highest volume of international tourism in the year.
UNWTO expects growth of 3% to 4% for the year as a whole, while forecasting a slight slowdown in demand for 2013 (+2% to 4%).
Emerging economies (+5%) regained the lead compared with advanced ones (+4%).
By regions, growth was stronger in Asia and the Pacific and Africa, followed by the Americas and Europe. The Middle East continues to show signs of recovery, with particularly promising results in Egypt.
\* Europe (+3%) consolidated its record growth of 2011 despite ongoing economic volatility in the Eurozone. Results were above average in Central and Eastern Europe (+9%), in line with the average in Western Europe (+3%), yet comparatively weaker in Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+1%) - one of the best performing European sub-regions in 2011 - as well as in Northern Europe (+0.2%).
\* South-East Asia and South Asia (both at +8%) led the way in Asia and the Pacific (+7%), followed by North-East Asia (+7%), the latter reflecting the clear recovery of the Japanese inbound and outbound markets. Growth was clearly positive in Oceania (+5%) as compared to the full year 2011 (+1%).
\* In the Americas (+4%), Central (+7%) and South America (+6%) continued to show the strongest performances, with growth in the Caribbean (+5%) also significant. International tourist arrivals grew 3% in North America.
\* In Africa (+6%), the recovery of Tunisia is clearly reflected in the results of North Africa (+10%), as is the rebound of Egypt in the performance of the Middle East (-1% as compared to a decline of 7% in 2011). Destinations in Sub-Saharan Africa (+4%) continued to show very positive results, consolidating the good growth rates of previous years.
Tourism earnings and expenditures are also on the rise. Among the 10 largest international tourism earners, receipts grew significantly during the first six to nine months of 2012 in Hong Kong (China) (+17%), USA (+8%), Germany (+7%), France (+5%) and the UK (+4%). A number of other major destinations reported double-digit growth in receipts, such as Japan (+48%), Sweden (+26%), South Africa (+26%), Republic of Korea (+26%), India (+23%), Poland (+19%), Thailand (+17%), Russian Federation (+16%), Egypt (+13%), Czech Republic (+13%), Taiwan (China) (+11), Singapore (+10%) and Croatia (+10%).
Among the top 10 international markets by expenditure on travel abroad, growth was significant during the first six to nine months of 2012 in China (+30%), Russia (+15%), USA (+9%), Canada (+6%), Germany (+5%), and Australia (+4%) as well as in Japan, where a 7% increase confirms the recovery of this important market. Following a decline in recent years, the UK recorded a modest 2% growth in tourism expenditure, while both Italy and France showed declines in the level of expenditure on travel abroad.
Other major advanced economies that showed significant growth in expenditure were Austria (+16%), Belgium (+13%), Switzerland (+11%) and Norway (+11%). Among the emerging economies, in addition to China and Russia double-digit growth in expenditure was posted by Poland (+22%), Malaysia (+18%), Argentina (+16%), the Philippines (+14%), India (+11%) and Indonesia (+10%).
By Neil Gerrard
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