World tourism numbers post biggest first-half rise since 2010, says UN

Tourists shelter from the sun in downtown Rome, Italy, Aug 3, 2017.
Tourists shelter from the sun in downtown Rome, Italy, Aug 3, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

MADRID (AFP) - International tourist numbers grew 6.4 per cent in the first half of 2017, the strongest half-year figures in seven years, with Mediterranean destinations posting double-digit growth, the UN World Tourism Organisation said on Thursday (Sept 7).

The number of international tourists surged to around 598 million between January and June, some 36 million more than during the same period last year, the Madrid-based United Nations body said in a statement.

Rising business confidence and strong outbound demand from major source markets such as Britain, China, France and the United States were behind the rise.

"The first half of 2017 shows healthy growth in an increasingly dynamic and resilient tourism market, including a strong recovery in some of the destinations impacted by security challenges last year," said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai.

Mediterranean destinations reported "particularly strong growth" in the first half of 2017, including those such as Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey, which suffered terrorist attacks in recent years, causing a slump in visitors, the organisation said.

Southern and Mediterranean Europe saw a 12 per cent rise in international visitors, North Africa posted a 16 per cent rise and the Middle East recorded an increase of 8.9 per cent.

Tourist arrivals overall in Europe, the world's most-visited region, grew 7.7 per cent.

Africa saw a 7.6 per cent rise in visitor numbers, while Asia and the Pacific posted 5.7 per cent growth.

International arrivals in the Americas were up 3 per cent in the first half of the year.

Growth was solid in South America, up by 6 per cent, while North America saw just 2 per cent growth as a decrease in arrivals in the United States offset robust results for Canada and Mexico.

In the whole of 2016, the number of international tourist arrivals grew by 3.9 per cent from the previous year to 1.23 billion and the UN body expects the figure to grow by 3 to 4 per cent this year.