Tourism’s share of total world exports leapt ahead from 6 to 7 per cent in 2015, outpacing the growth of the merchandising trade for the fourth consecutive year, according to preliminary figures released by the UNWTO.
UNWTO valued tourism spending in 2015 at a staggering US$1.4 trillion, or US$4 billion a day on average.
Non-resident passenger transport services accounted for US$210 billion, while income generated by international visitors on accommodation, food and drink, entertainment, shopping and other services and goods totalled more than US$1.2 trillion, a 3.6 per cent increase from the previous year.
As a worldwide export category, tourism ranks third after fuels and chemicals and ahead of food and automotive products. In many developing countries, tourism ranks as the first export sector, UNWTO stated.
“As prices of raw materials have decreased, tourism has shown a strong capacity to compensate for weaker export revenue in many commodity- and oil-exporting countries,” said UNWTO secretary-general Taleb Rifai while addressing the 60th Regional Commission for the Americas meeting in Havana, Cuba.
“Tourism is increasingly an essential component of export diversification for many emerging economies as well as several advanced ones,” he added.
Looking at countries, the top destinations both in international tourism receipts and arrivals continue to be the US (US$178 billion), China (US$114 billion), Spain (US$57 billion) and France (US$46 billion).
For outbound tourism expenditure, China maintains its lead after double-digit growth every year since 2004, benefitting Asian destinations such as Japan and Thailand as well as the United States and various European destinations.
Spending by Chinese travellers increased 25 per cent in 2015 to reach US$292 billion, as total outbound travellers rose 10 per cent to 128 million.
In comparison, tourism expenditure from the world’s second largest source market, the US, increased by 9 per cent in 2015 to US$120 billion, while the number of outbound travellers grew by 8 per cent to 73 million.
UNWTO also revealed that international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) increased by 4.4 per cent, reaching a total of 1.18 billion.