International tourism numbers surge to 1.1b in 2013
Agence France-Presse in Madrid
International tourism numbers jumped to nearly 1.1 billion last year in defiance of global economic troubles, with Asia-Pacific destinations enjoying the fastest growth, a United Nations body has reported.
Among countries of origin, Chinese tourists - already leading the way with expenditure of US$102 billion in 2012 - increased their expenditure by 28 per cent in the first nine months of 2013.
The rise in tourism coincided with sluggish economic growth worldwide and unrest in top destinations such as Egypt.
Despite those troubles, the number of international tourist arrivals beat expectations by soaring 5 per cent to 1.09 billion, the UN World Tourism Organisation said, tipping further growth this year.
"The tourism sector has shown a remarkable capacity to adjust to the changing market conditions, fuelling growth and job creation around the world, despite the lingering economic and geopolitical challenges," secretary general Taleb Rifai, said.
"Indeed, tourism has been among the few sectors generating positive news for many economies," he added, hailing 2013 as an "excellent year".
Expectations of stronger economic activity set the scene for a further expansion, with international arrivals expected to grow by 4 to 4.5 per cent this year, the body said, urging countries to support fair and sustainable growth in the sector.
International tourist arrivals rose at the fastest rate in the Asia-Pacific region, where numbers were up 6 per cent to 248 million. Southeast Asia performed best, with arrivals up 10 per cent.
But Europe remained the biggest destination overall, with international tourist arrivals up 5 per cent to 563 million.
In the Americas, arrivals grew 4 per cent to 169 million.