International tourist arrivals grew 4% from January to June 2019, compared to the same period last year, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. Growth was led by the Middle East (+8%) and Asia and the Pacific (+6%). International arrivals in Europe grew 4%, while Africa (+3%) and the Americas (+2%) enjoyed more moderate growth.
So far, the drivers of these results have been a strong economy, affordable air travel, increased air connectivity and enhanced visa facilitation. However, weaker economic indicators, prolonged uncertainty about Brexit, trade and technological tensions and rising geopolitical challenges, have started to take a toll on business and consumer confidence, as reflected in a more cautious UNWTO Confidence Index.
In the Americas (+2%), results improved in the second quarter after a weak start of the year. The Caribbean (+11%) benefitted from strong US demand and continued to rebound strongly from the impact of hurricanes Irma and Maria in late 2017, a challenge which the region unfortunately faces once again. North America recorded 2% growth, while Central America (+1%) showed mixed results. In South America, arrivals were down 5% partly due to a decline in outbound travel from Argentina which affected neighbouring destinations.
Outbound travel from the USA, the world’s second largest spender, remained solid (+7%), supported by a strong dollar. In Europe, spending on international tourism by France (+8%) and Italy (+7%) was robust, though the United Kingdom (+3%) and Germany (+2%) reported more moderate figures.
The UNWTO outlook for international tourist arrivals projects growth of +2% to +3% for the Americas, against a global forecast of +3% to +4%. Prolonged uncertainty about Brexit, intensified trade and technological tensions between the United States and China, and rising geopolitical challenges may take a toll on business and consumer confidence in certain countries or regions.