Russia and China are making a long way to the top of world tourism while Europe welcomed 671 million international tourist arrivals in 2017, an outstanding 8% growth compared to 2016.
According to UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Russian outbound travel has picked up following years of declines. All but one reporting destinations enjoyed a strong rebound in arrivals from this market. In China improved air connectivity and its expanding middle class continue to drive travel demand. In 2017, Europe saw a remarkable 16% increase from China, compared to the flat growth in 2016.
The European regional expansion was supported by the economic growth in major source markets and the recovery of destinations previously affected by security concerns. A report from European Travel Commission’s “European Tourism 2017-Trends & Prospects” stimates that almost all monitored destinations saw increases in tourist arrivals with more than a half growing in excess of 10%.
The UNWTO added that growth from the UK largely continued despite a weakened Pound with several destinations posting double-digit increases. France and Germany continued to be a source of notable arrivals growth for several European destinations aided by encouraging economic conditions that support private consumption.
The success of the Spanish tourism industry in 2017 and a visible decline of the United States in that branch led the UNWTO to affirm that Spain “is expected” to replace the United States as the second most popular country in terms of tourist numbers.
The Spanish government announced that total earnings in the tourism sector rose by 12 per cent to €87bn euros (£77bn) last year. This comes despite a year in which a very public independence battle raged in Catalonia, residents of Barcelona took to the streets to protest over-tourism, and a deadly terrorist attack saw a van drive into pedestrians on La Rambla in Barcelona, killing 13 people and injuring at least 130 others, one of whom died 10 days later.
UNWTO data confirmed that 2017 was an exceptionally strong year for travel – it’s estimated that international tourist arrivals increased by 7 per cent worldwide. Southern and Mediterranean Europe in particular saw huge growth, with numbers up 13 per cent compared to 2016.