International arrivals up 4% in the first six months of 2019
International tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) grew 4% in January-June 2019 compared to the same period last year, according to the available data, supplied by the UNWTO.
The organisation estimates that destinations worldwide received 671 million international tourist arrivals in the first half of 2019, about 29 million more than in the same period of 2018.
This represents a continuation of the 5% growth recorded in 2018, though more in line with the annual average of 4% of the last ten years (2008- 2018).
Growth was led by the Middle East (+8%) and Asia and the Pacific (+6%). International arrivals in Europe (+4%) grew in line with the world average, while Africa (+3%) and the Americas (+2%) saw more moderate growth.
The first half of the year accounts for about 45% of total annual volume of international arrivals and includes the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere, the summer season in the Southern Hemisphere, the Chinese New Year, Easter and the start of the summer season in the Northern Hemisphere, among other peak travel periods.
Growth to date is in line with UNWTO’s forecast of 3% to 4% for the year 2019, as reported in the January edition of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.
A total of 130 countries had, at the time of the UNWTO’s September report, so far reported data on international tourist arrivals for three or more months of 2019. Of these, 72% reported an increase in arrivals and 28% posted a decrease.
International passenger traffic demand grew in line with international arrivals. International air passenger traffic, measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPK) saw a similar pattern to that of international tourists, with a 4.7% increase in the first half of 2019, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). All regions contributed positively to the first half of 2019 growth rate, most notably Asia and the Pacific, Europe and to a lesser extent North America.
DOWNSIDE RISKS ON THE HORIZON
Confidence in global tourism remains positive yet cautious with signs of more moderate growth for the remainder of the year, according to the latest UNWTO Confidence Index.
Global economic growth remains subdued, according to the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook update of July 2019. Global growth is projected at 3.2% for 2019, improving to 3.5% in 2020 (0.1 percentage point lower for both years than in the April 2019 WEO forecast).
Growth in advanced economies is projected at 1.9% in 2019, with positive output in the United States but weak growth in the euro area including a potential risk of recession in Germany, the world’s third largest tourism spender. Emerging markets are projected to grow at 4.1% in 2019, with slightly slower but still robust growth in China and India, and sluggish performance in major Latin American economies. Against this backdrop, oil prices (Brent) have eased back from the most recent high of USD67 per barrel according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) and oil demand growth estimates have been revised downwards for 2019.
Prolonged uncertainty about Brexit, intensified trade and technological tensions between the United States and China, and rising geopolitical challenges may take a toll on business and consumer confidence in certain countries or regions.
Uncertainty derived from Brexit could lead consumers to adopt a wait-and-see attitude, which could affect travel bookings. As an indirect impact, the depreciation of the pound sterling and a slower UK economy could lead to rising demand for more price competitive destinations outside the European Union.
While the ultimate form of Brexit remains highly uncertain, Brexit extension provides certainty that all existing travel arrangements with EU will continue until at least 31 October, according to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA). The European Parliament has confirmed that UK travellers would not need a visa to travel to the EU after Brexit for short-term business or leisure trips, even if the UK leaves without a deal. UK citizens will be able to visit the EU for up to 90 days within a 180-day period without a visa.