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International travel outperforming economic growth

BERLIN – In 2018, the number of outbound trips increased by 5.5 per cent, resulting in 1.4 billion international trips. Hence, once again tourism is a key growth driver of the global economy, which “only” grew by 3.7 per cent in comparison. Growth is coming from all regions worldwide, also from the mature markets Europe and North America, but the strongest gains came from Asian and Latin American markets. For 2019, considering a slowing world economy, also a slightly lower growth rate is expected for international travel. Overtourism could become another growing problem for the tourism industry, with more and more international travelers feeling the effect of overcrowded destinations.

These findings are based on latest results of IPK’s World travel Monitor, an annual survey analyzing the outbound travel behavior in more than 60 countries worldwide, covering over 90 per cent of the global outbound demand. Trends for the first eight months of 2018 can be found in the ITB World Travel Trends Report which is published yearly by ITB Berlin.

Asia is growth driver while Turkey showing strong recovery
Asia was the strongest source region last year, with overall 7 per cent more outbound trips. Latin America followed with a plus of 6 per cent, while there were 5 per cent more trips from North America and Europe. Looking at the destination regions, once again Asia but also Europe were the global winners by receiving 6 per cent more international trips each, while the Americas were clearly below with a plus of 3 per cent. Regarding destination countries, one of the biggest changes was the stagnation of trips to Spain in 2018, a destination that boomed in the recent past. On the other hand, destinations that were avoided by tourist in the past are recovering, above all Turkey with 8.5 million more visitors in 2018 compared to 2017. Holidays once again outperform business trips, due to the continuous downward path of traditional business trips, while MICE trips continued on a growth path. With international travelers staying slightly longer and also spending more when abroad, the turnover of international trips overall increased by 8 per cent.

Increasing effect of overtourism
For the second year in a row, IPK International measures the perceptions of overtourism among international travelers. While residents in affected destinations have been protesting for years, also travelers are feeling more and more impaired by the onslaught of tourist in particularly sought-after cities. IPK’s latest survey results show that meanwhile more than every tenth international traveler was negatively affected by overtourism. This is an increase of 30 per cent over the last 12 months. Cities strongly affected by overtourism were Beijing, Mexico City, Venice and Amsterdam, but also Istanbul and Florence.

In particular, travelers from Asia felt a lot more affected by overtourism compared to e.g. Europeans. Also according to the statistics, young travelers are a lot more bothered by overcrowding compared to older travelers.

Fear of terror remains
Similar to figures from 2018, 38 per cent of international travelers currently claim that political instability and terror threats will have an influence on their travel planning for 2019. At that, travelers from Asia feel a lot more impacted by terror threats than travelers from other continents. In terms of what kind of influence terror threats will have on the travel behavior, the great majority states that they will choose only destinations, which they perceive as “safe”. The safety image of most destinations slightly improved over the last 12 months – also for Turkey, Israel and Egypt.

Outlook 2019
With predictions of the global economic growth slowing down in 2019, also the forecast for international travel for this year is slightly below the performance of 2018. Overall, IPK International anticipates global outbound trips to increase by 4 per cent in 2019. Asia-Pacific remains leading with an expected plus of 6 per cent. Growth in the Americas is forecasted to reach 5 per cent, while Europe with 3 per cent is showing a weakening trend compared to last year.

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