Exports generated by international tourism reached US$1.7 trillion in 2018, up 4% over the previous year, with Asia-Pacific leading growth, a new report from UNWTO shows.
For the seventh year in a row, tourism exports grew faster than merchandise exports (+3%), reflecting solid demand for international travel in a generally robust economic environment.
Strong growth in outbound travel from many source markets around the world fuelled revenues. This accounts for 29% of global service exports and 7% of overall exports of goods and services. These figures consolidate international tourism among the top five economic sectors in the world, behind chemical manufacturing and the fuel industry but ahead of the food and automotive industries.
“Rather than growing in volume we need to grow in value. We are pleased to see that both emerging and advanced economies around the world are benefiting from rising tourism income,” said UNWTO secretary-general, Zurab Pololikashvili.
“Revenues from international tourism translate into jobs, entrepreneurship and a better situation for people and local economies, while reducing trade deficits in many countries” he added.
International tourism receipts increased 4% in real terms (adjusting for exchange rate fluctuations and inflation) to reach over US$1.4 trillion in 2018, about US$100 billion more than the previous year. This is consistent with the 6% increase in international tourist arrivals in 2018.
By regions, Asia and the Pacific led the way with 7% growth in international tourism receipts, followed by Europe with a 5% increase. The Middle East saw 3% growth, while Africa (+1%) and the Americas (0%) recorded more modest results. Central and Eastern Europe and North-East Asia (both +9%) were the subregions with the strongest growth.
Growth in receipts was fuelled by strong demand for international travel in the context of a robust global economy.
Among the world’s top ten source markets, France and the Russian Federation both recorded 11% growth in outbound spending in 2018, while Australia saw a 10% increase.
China, the world’s top spender reported US$277 billion in international tourism expenditure in 2018, a 5% increase in real terms from a year earlier, while the US, the second largest, spent 7% more, to reach US$144 billion.
International expenditure from the UK grew 3% in 2018, and 4% from Italy, while Germany and South Korea both reported rather flat results. Further down the ranking, Spain enjoyed 12% higher spending on international tourism in 2018.