International Tourism Exports Hit $1.7 Trillion

For the past seven years, tourism exports have grown faster than merchandise exports around the world.

A new report from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) shows that in 2018 alone, exports generated by international tourism reached $1.7 trillion, which was a four percent increase over the previous year.

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The growth is the result of solid demand for international travel in a generally robust economic environment, UNWTO said.

Strong increase in outbound travel from many source markets around the world fueled revenues from international tourism, driving it up to $1.7 trillion, according to a statement released by the organization. That figure accounts for 29 percent of global service exports and seven percent of overall exports of goods and services.

Such strong performance solidified international tourism’s place 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.”

Total exports from international tourism include $1.448 billion in international tourism receipts (visitor spending in destinations) and $256 billion in international passenger transport services.

Tourism represents a key source of foreign exchange and a major tool for export diversification for many destinations, the UNWTO said in a statement.

International tourism receipts increased 4 percent in real terms (adjusting for exchange rate fluctuations and inflation) to reach $1.448 billion in 2018, which was about $100 billion more than the previous year.

By region, Asia and the Pacific led the way with 7 percent growth in international tourism receipts, followed by Europe with a 5 percent increase.

The Middle East saw 3 percent growth, while Africa (+1 percent) and the Americas (0 percent) recorded more modest results.

Central and Eastern Europe and North-East Asia (both +9 percent) were the sub-regions with the strongest growth.

France and Russia lead growth in the top spenders’ category. Among the world’s top ten source markets, France and the Russian Federation both recorded 11 percent growth in outbound spending in 2018, while Australia saw a 10 percent increase.

China, the world’s top spender reported $277 billion in international tourism expenditure in 2018, a 5 percent increase in real terms from a year earlier, while the United States, the second largest, spent 7 percent more, to reach $144 billion.

International expenditure from the United Kingdom, meanwhile grew 3 percent in 2018, and 4 percent from Italy. Germany and the Republic of Korea both reported flat results. Further down the ranking, Spain enjoyed 12 percent higher spending on international tourism in 2018.