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Global travel industry shows resilience with 4% jump in international trips

MADRID — International travel rose 4% in the first half of 2016, with destinations worldwide receiving 561 million international overnight visitors. That’s 21 million more than in the first six months of 2015, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.

Europe, up 3%, showed mixed results. Northern Europe and Central and Eastern Europe both recorded 5% more international arrivals, while growth in both Western Europe (+1%) and Southern Mediterranean Europe (+2%) was slow.

Asia and the Pacific welcomed 9% more international arrivals, the highest growth across world regions. In the Americas, international arrivals increased by 4%, led by Central America and South America.

Africa was up 5%, with Sub-Saharan destinations rebounding strongly, while North Africa continued to report weak results. The Middle East had an estimated 9% decrease.

International arrivals in the Americas were up 4% in the first half of the year, in line with the world average. Central America and South America (both +6%) led growth, while arrivals in both the Caribbean and North America grew by 4%.

“Tourism has proven to be one of the most resilient economic sectors worldwide,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai. “It is creating jobs for millions, at a time when providing perspectives for a better future to people of all regions is one of our biggest challenges. But tourism is also creating bonds among people of all nations and backgrounds, bringing down stereotypes and fighting fear and distrust.”

He added that “safety and security are key pillars of tourism development and we need to strengthen our common action to build a safe, secure and seamless travel framework. This is no time to build walls or point fingers; it is time to build an alliance based on a shared vision and a joint responsibility.”

The first half of the year typically accounts for around 46% of the total international arrivals count of the year. For the remainder of 2016 prospects are positive overall. Countries that have already reported results till July or August show continued growth in the current Northern Hemisphere summer peak season.

China, the world’s top source market, continued to report double-digit growth (+20%) in expenditure on international travel. The U.S., the world’s second largest market, increased expenditure on outbound travel by 8% through July, thanks to a strong currency. Third largest market Germany reported a 4% increase in expenditure through July.

Other markets that showed robust demand for outbound travel in the first half of 2016 were Spain (+20%), Norway (+11%), Australia (+10%) and Japan (+6%).

Meanwhile expenditure from the Russian Federation and Brazil continues to be weak, reflecting the economic constraints and depreciated currencies in both markets

Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation – even if it’s a waiver – the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.

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