Global tourism growth cools down as uncertainty bites

Global tourism slowed last year especially in Europe and Asia where uncertainties linked to Brexit, the collapse of Thomas Cook and protests in Hong Kong weighed down on the sector.

The number of international tourist arrivals rose by 4 per cent last year to 1.5 billion, its slowest rate since 2016, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said in a statement.

Sandra Carvao, UNWTO’s intelligence chief, said the growth was still strong within the historical average.

“But we see a slight slowdown compared to the last two years,” he said. “But it should be noted that the last two years have been really exceptional with a growth that was not normal.”

The UNWTO predicted global tourism will grow by 3 to 4 per cent this year, driven by major sporting including the Tokyo Olympics in Japan.

Tourist arrivals in Europe rose by 4 percent in 2019, a two percentage point drop from the previous year, but still retained its crown as the most visited region in the world, accounting for 51 percent of all international tourist arrivals last year.

Arrivals in the Asia-Pacific region rose by 5 per cent compared to 7 per cent in 2018, with the ongoing protests in Hong Kong impacting hotel occupancy.

The Middle East rose 8 per cent in 2019, up from 3 per cent in the previous year, due mainly to Saudi Arabia ramping up its tourism offering.