ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – The World Tourism Organization has said it expects international tourism to rise between 3% and 4% in 2019.
Last year the industry increased 6% globally, reaching a figure of 1.4 billion tourists two years earlier than predicted.
The forecast for Asia and the Pacific is between 5% and 6%, with considerable growth potential in many emerging destinations.
Europe is expected to have similar progress to the world average this year.
In the Americas, an increase in arrivals of between 2% and 3% is expected in 2019, in line with a 3% increase recorded last year.
Africa is estimated to see an increase of between 3% and 5%, after a rise of 7% in 2018, as the rebound of some destinations is consolidated, and in the Middle East, between 4% and 6%, after 10% last year.
The destinations with the most holidaymakers in 2018 were China, Italy, Turkey, Mexico, Germany, Thailand and the United Kingdom, which was the only country in the top ten that registered a decline of 4%.
Last year was the ninth consecutive year of sustained growth and tourism accounted for 7% of international exports, growing at a faster rate than merchandise exports in the last seven years.
After a period of solid growth that lasted almost two years, the world economy showed signs of a slowdown in the second half of 2018 and in the first months of this year, according to the head of the UNWTO.
Uncertainty over the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union, together with escalating trade tensions, added to a downward turn that arose from an economic slowdown in advanced countries, rising oil prices and natural crises, many of which were related to the weather.
The Bahamas, a country with an economy that depends on tourism, has recently suffered devastating effects from Hurricane Dorian and called for the organization’s support in the reconstruction and management of the crisis.
The Carribean archipelago has urged tourists to keep traveling to the destination, since of its 16 islands only two have been affected by the natural disaster, while the remaining 14 were able to welcome visitors.
UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili spoke at the 23rd General Assembly of the organization on Wednesday in the Russian city of St Petersburg.
He said that one of the positive factors that stimulated international tourism has been the facilitation of visas and referred to recent initiatives undertaken by India, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Argentina, Brazil and Russia.
He also welcomed the decision of the United States to explore possibilities of rejoining the organization.
The US, a founding member, withdrew from the group in December 1996, but last June a high-level delegation from the US government announced the country’s intention to explore its return.